Festive Season Traditions in Cape Town


Cape Town has a long multi-cultural history extending back 300 years and with this in mind Capetonians relish the idea of celebrating the Christmas season with exuberance and flair as only this culture can do. When visiting Cape Town, look out for three main events that revolve around the Festive Season. 

1. Cape Town’s Christmas Lights

Thousands of people gather in the city centre extending down Adderley Street and towards the historic parade both to celebrate the start of the festive season and see the switch on of Cape Town’s Christmas lights. It’s a spectacle of note with this year’s theme being 20 Years of Democracy. While the free switch-on extravaganza happened on Sunday 14th December, the Christmas lights down Adderley Street remain on throughout the festive season and are well worth a visit. You’ll find traditional Christmas scenes amidst specially crafted celebratory lights showing images from the last two decades. With 4000 bulbs lighting your way, it’ll be a memorable outing for the whole family.

2. Carols at Kirstenbosch

Christmas Carols at Kirstenbosch have become a favourite annual outing for tens of thousands of Capetonians. As one of the world’s most beautiful outdoor entertainment venues, Kirstenbosch historic gardens lie in the shadow of the extension of Table Mountain. For the last 20 years, each December they have held 4 nights of Carols by Candlelight services. The gardens open early in the afternoon for picnickers to enjoy a variety of singers and an outdoor concert in the amphitheatre. Later in the evening the Cape Town Concert Brass and Male Voice Choir take to the stage and between 8pm and 10pm lead the thousand-strong crowd in traditional Christmas carols. It’s a magical evening under Cape Town stars that really gears you up for the week of Christmas. It is also largely a fundraising event organised by the Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch.

3. The Minstrels Carnival

Probably one of the most famous and traditional of Cape festivities is that of the Minstrels Carnival. It’s a street party of note, dating back 200 years to when there were slaves in the Cape Colony. In those days, after a busy season working through Christmas and the New Year, the slaves would be given the 2nd January as a day off. They would gather in the streets in bright costumes and painted faces with a multitude of instruments. A parade of singing and dancing ensued. It became known as “Tweede Nuwe Jaar” (Second New Year). These days, day of the event usually lies a day or two after new year. In 2014, it will be on Saturday 3rd January 2015.  Dressing in traditional costumes, with matching apparel and parasols, teams of minstrels (also known as the Kaapse Klopse) will parade from the Old District Six area to the City Centre. Thousands of onlookers will line the streets, clapping and admiring the passing choirs. Knowing at ‘troupes’, the choirs are serious about being the best they can be. Prizes are awarded in categories such as the best band, the best dressed and the most flamboyant. It certainly is an event not to be missed!