Back in the day, celebrating the festive season was all about re-uniting with family and loved ones. People took time off from their city jobs to travel back to their home villages to spend time with their parents, children and relatives and friends for the festive season. But a few days before travelling home, shopping malls would be buzzing with activity in preparation for the long holidays ahead. Most families in Botswana had the same festive traditions and the city would become a ghost town around this period.
On Christmas Day, everyone would get up at the crack of dawn and family members would start trickling in to prepare for the celebrations of the sacred day, usually at the grandparents’ home. Festive music on RB1 would be blaring on the radio as a targeted beast would be slaughtered to fuel the festivities. Children would be running around in their new Christmas outfits ready to attend sports tournaments and accapella choir competitions (dikhwaere) later in the day after the much-anticipated Christmas treats.
Elders would get the food ready and chill the drinks for a “seven colours” Christmas lunch that would be shared with neighbours and the less privileged. Relatives would come bearing gifts for the children and there would be plenty of food and snacks to last the entire festive break. This tradition brought the whole family together as everyone made an effort to be home to bond and rebond, share stories and meet new relatives.
Fast forward to today and almost all of this is no more. This festive tradition has slowly died out and fingers are pointing to millennials who have new ways of spending their festive break. With the changing times they have forged their own patterns of having fun. Lesego Kgwarae is a 26-year old marketing officer who prefers to spend her festive break in an exotic holiday place that she would have been planning for the entire year. “Our age groups is growing up in the most stressful times,” she says. “Unfortunately nowadays there are family members who would worsen your mental health and so it is always a better option to travel and make new discoveries around the world and refresh your mind. Some of us used to go back home to see our grandparents who are no longer there. We now have no one to go home to, so I travel.”
Lebang Sebakeng is a 29-year old architect who spends his festive break in Gaborone and catches up with the festive gigs in villages near the city. The Bobonong native explains that it is no longer exciting to go home as he can enjoy food and new clothes at any time of the year. “For me this is the time to pamper and put myself first,” he says. “I enjoy my Netflix subscription indoors with my drinks. At times I attend music festivals nearby and return to my house. Travelling back home is straining because we are always working there. Plus I no longer enjoy dikhwaere and I can always make time to see my family during the year.”
Elder Mmampho Mapodisi, who is a street vendor in Selibe-Phikwe, says what millennials do not understand is that they are alienating themselves from their relatives by changing the dynamics of celebrating the festive season. She says the celebrations have completely lost their flavour because they no longer see their children back home and the increasing car accidents and crime are their worst nightmares as parents. “Most youth no longer respect and listen to us as parents,” she carps. “Sending money back home and making phone calls is not enough. Spending time with us is everything. We only meet as a family during unfortunate events and our children don’t even know their relatives. We have become strangers and lost touch.”
Other millenials have decided to make their own festive traditions with their children. On Christmas Day they travel to the mall to take pictures with Santa Clause and attend various Christmas carol events. Boxing Day is centered around unwrapping gifts and most days end with dinners at restaurants and watching Christmas movies. On New Year’s Eve, most prefer to spend it in church crossovers to usher in the next year.