© 2018 Dr. M. Sheppard

Botswana Kanye Households People Lands Cattle-post Crafts

Christmas and New Year Celebrations

Christmas and New Year are celebrated. This is a relatively modern social occasion. In various parts of the Lands richer families may host Christmas or New Year celebrations. For weeks beforehand the young people from each area of the Lands will practise songs. These songs are the same type as those at weddings, sung and danced to in a semi-traditional way but with modern people and events being mentioned in the words. Each Christmas choir will have its own "uniform". As many as can afford the uniform have dresses made with one pattern of dress material bought at one of the stores, or they may even buy similar dresses from a postal order catalogue. For 1977-8 Christmas/New Year, one choir even ordered its dresses from Johannesburg - this was a great talking point that Christmas.

These uniforms are kept secret until the day of the singing. Then on Christmas Day at about 3.00 p.m. the choirs from one area of the Lands go to a family's Lands in the neighbouring area; they are challenging the other area. They may go in lorries or on the back of a tractor. The choirs then take it in turns to sing for about 15-30 minutes at a time. Each choir tries to outdo the other in friendly rivalry. They may carry an emblem such as a piece of their dress material on a pole. The family where Christmas is being held will have decorated their houses and walls (as is done for marriages and Botsetsi parties etc.)  A beast may have been slaughtered and rice, salad etc.. (the type of food prepared for a feast) is cooked. Traditional beer will have been brewed and the choirs and certain invited people will have food dished for them, and just as at any other feasts other people will be given fat cakes, tea etc. (See descriptions of wedding feasts and Botsetsi etc. in respective sections for further details).

The singing usually continues until about 8.00 p.m. or even into the night until sunrise. Everyone in the district tries to go to "Christmas" and they will wear their best, or even new, Christmas clothes. This is an occasion when young people may show themselves to their best advantage for the benefit of members of the opposite sex with a view to future relationships, and maybe even marriages.

After the singing has finished the visiting choir returns to its Lands area and the return challenge will take place at its Lands either on Boxing Day or at New Year. This is certainly a very festive occasion and there is a great deal of enjoyment and “self advertisement”to people one does not perhaps see for the rest of the year - migrant workers are often on leave from the mines  or other parts of Botswana. The day may  be closed with a prayer or the singing of the National Anthem (strangely on one occasion “God Save the Queen” rather than the Botswana National Anthem “Lefatshe leno la rona”!).

Presumably this is also the type of traditional feast that attracts the Badimo (Ancestors) as described by Setiloane, "Badimo ba rata modumo" (Badimo like noise). Badimo  are pleased when kin are gathered for feasting and drinking even if this is not overt. People usually explain it as from the Bible,that Christmas was a time for giving freely, but also it may have a traditional idea such as "pha badimo,, mixed with the idea of the feast. The hosts will be pleasing their Badimo who will hopefully reward them  with a successful harvest.

Social Life at the Lands

Daily life at the Lands is much the same as in the village. The homes, however, are much more scattered, as they are usually beside the owner's fields, but they are not isolated from one another. People visit each other frequently. They go together to fetch water (which may be one and a half hours away) and socialise generally. There is the same "social round" of Botsetsi parties, beer drinking (many brew kgadi a spirit) and for younger people, gumba gumba parties, which are not banned at the Lands as they are in Kanye.

Gumba-Gumba Parties

Gumba-Gumba parties can be a source of income. In recent years they have been banned in Kanye as they tend to lead to lawlessness but are still held in Lands and Cattle-post areas. Usually a group of women, often “shebeen queens” come together to brew beer and kgadi and to cook food. A man with gumba-gumba equipment (a record player and gumba-gumba records) is hired. People come to buy the food and alcohol and to dance. In order to dance an individual has to "rent" the record. If he puts down more money than anyone else he may dance alone or with selected friends, or even "rent" a girl to dance with him. If the girl refuses she must better the amount of money he has put down, similarly if others want to join the dancing. This, especially when people become drunk, can lead to disputes and even fights, hence the banning of gumba- gumba in Kanye. However, as with shebeens, these can be very profitable for the owners.

Gumba gumba man with his equipment

Gumba gumba man in venue

Waiting to dance


Performing  their steps to the gumba gumba record

Hostess sells food, traditional beer & kgadi outside

Stemping the maize for the feast

Large quantities of water fetched for the feast

Miners on leave from South African mines - dressed to impress!