12 Days Lisa Harris

Traditions from the Other Side of the World

I’ve always loved family traditions, and in particular, traditions surrounding Christmas. When I think of the holiday, I imagine snow falling, lit up trees in the living room with beautiful decorations and perfectly wrapped presents underneath, and Bing Crosby playing in the background.

Except our Christmases have rarely looked like that.

We moved to Africa when my kids were 1, 3, and 5. Immediately, everything felt unfamiliar. We were drinking boxed shelf milk, and learning to love biltong, boerewors, and sarmies. We had to figure out new vocabulary with words like bakkie, takkies, robots and zebra crossings. Eventually we ended up finding our own kind of normal through new family traditions and celebrations that mixed our own culture with the country where we were living. And I wouldn’t trade what we ended up with for anything.


Christmas was no exception. December is in the middle of summer in southern Africa, so there is no white Christmas. Instead the flowers are blooming, it’s hot, and half the population, it seems, heads to the beach or on safari. Living in another country has meant that our traditions have changed and evolved over the years, but it’s also taught me about what really matters in life. Things like being together as a family, living out our faith, and giving from the heart.

We decided as a young family living in a different culture, that we needed to start our own Christmas traditions. Because we miss the cold, we typically crank up the wall air conditioner in the living room on Christmas Eve, drink hot chocolate, and play board games while Michael Bublé sings in the background. Everything we eat has to be made from scratch, so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen together preparing for our holiday celebration. We make everyone’s favorite appetizers, everything from cheese sticks to sushi. For Christmas morning, there are always gooey Cinnabon cinnamon rolls (from scratch, of course) and sugar cookies with lots of sprinkles for decorating later in the day. The hot summer means ditching the whole Christmas turkey and stuffing dinner in a kitchen with no air-conditioning and instead throwing a braai (BBQ) outside. Sometimes it means heading to the beach or to Kruger on safari.


One of my fondest Christmas memories is when our car broke down in South Africa. We were living in Mozambique by this time, and couldn’t get back across the border in time for Christmas at home. We ended up staying in some friends’ house who were gone on holiday. With only an artificial tree, our kids worked for hours making their own decorations out of construction paper and glitter. Maybe it wasn’t the traditions we were used to, but it was a Christmas we’ll never forget.

As I was going through some of our old family photos while looking for a specific one for this post, I realized that over the years we’ve actually ended up celebrating Christmas in four countries; the US, South Africa, Mozambique, and Brazil. I couldn’t help but smile at all of our crazy memories, and the fun we’ve had over the past decade and a half. It hasn’t always been easy by any means, but the traditions we’ve built over the years, and the adventures we’ve taken have bonded us as a family, leaving me with no regrets.

Family traditions have a way of doing that. Whether you continue with ones passed down from generation to generation, or start your own new ones, they give your family a sense of identity. A place to belong. Hope and purpose. Which is really what was given to us two thousand years ago though the birth of Jesus. Jesus truly is the one who brings meaning to Christmas. He was God in the flesh. He is perfect and holy and through his death and resurrection gives us the true meaning of Christmas.

More about Vanishing Point

51vrFJuSMvL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_During Garrett Addison’s first week on the job as a criminal investigator for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, his team is called out to a murder scene of a young girl. She’s the third victim in a string of disappearances with one thing in common–a Polaroid photo of each victim left behind at the crime scene.

The FBI is pulled into the case to help, and Garrett finds himself working with Special Agent Jordan Lambert, the woman he once loved. When yet another girl dies–number six–Garrett blames himself and believes he doesn’t have what it takes to be an agent. What he’ll discover is that, while he may be done with the killer, the killer is not done with him–or Jordan.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Harris unveils an unforgettable story of a case that has haunted the public and law enforcement for more than a decade. Fans of the Nikki Boyd Files will thrill to finally discover what actually happened to Nikki’s sister, Sarah. New readers will become instant fans after devouring this chilling tale.

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Harris_LisaLISA HARRIS is a Christy Award finalist for Blood Ransom and Vendetta, Christy Award winner for Dangerous Passage, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 (Blood Covenant) and 2015 (Vendetta) from Romantic Times. She has over thirty novels and novella collections in print. She and her family have spent over thirteen years working as missionaries in Africa. When she’s not working she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, photography, and heading into the African bush on safari. For more information about her books and life in Africa visit her website at www.lisaharriswrites.com.

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