The Johannesburg of my youth was a fascinating place to be at Christmas time because the city centre was transformed by the City Council and Department stores into a night time wonderland of twinkling lights, window displays and giant, decorated Christmas trees. Hundreds of families would descend on the city after dark to stroll along Eloff, Rissik and President Streets and because traffic was light it was safe to walk arm in arm in the middle of the road. The summer weather would be balmy with star filled skies above, except, of course if there happened to be a sudden thunder storm. These rarely lasted very long so you simply took cover until the rain stopped and the stars came out again and then you continued your tour of the displays.
While the Christmas and Nativity scenes in the department stores were very attractive it was to Joubert (pronounced jewbear) park that everyone made their way because there the City Council pulled out all the stops and created the most magnificent fairytale wonderland imaginable.
Folks would buy big bunny balloons for the kids and ice creams and candy floss for everyone then stroll at their leisure through the park staring in wonderment at the displays.
The City’s all dressed up for ChristmasThe streets are ablaze with bright lightsFamilies stroll hand in hand on the main streetsWide eyed at the Yuletide delightsShop windows with scenes of the North PoleMock snow renders everything whiteAnd the heat of an African summerDetracts not one jot from the sightSanta’s workshop is busy as usualWith industrious elves making toysFor the girls doll’s houses and cradlesWood blocks and wagons for boysIn their parlour sit Santa and Mrs ClausBefore a cheerful log fire gently rockingSoon he’ll leave on his annual journey To fill many a child’s Christmas stockingOutside stands the sleigh quietly waitingTo be drawn at great speed I suppose By the reindeer team led by RudolphThe one with the shiny red noseStreet lights and store windows are prettyBut the best place to see after darkIs the glittering world of the fairiesThat each year transforms Joubert ParkNo doubt the right place for enchantmentEvery turn holds a brand new surpriseAnd we marvel at the storybook pageantBrought to life under Johannesburg skiesCinderella’s busy sweeping the kitchenWhile her step-sisters prepare for the ballAnd Humpty sits wobbling precariouslySurveying the Kings men from his wallSnow white waves goodbye to the sevenAs they march off to work in the mineWhile the hatter runs ‘round in a frenzyDouble checking his watch for the timeIn contrast mother goose reads a story To a group that includes Little Boy BlueAnd a dozen or more of the offspring Of the woman who lives in a shoeBut the favourite display without questionIs the tableau of First Christmas nightWith the infant asleep in the mangerSoft lit by the East Star so brightAn ox and an ass look on quietlyAt father Joseph and mother Mary sereneWhile Three Kings bearing gifts for the BabyComplete this timeless nativity sceneFor a month ‘til twelfth night each summerNoël lights shine bright as many a jewelThen fade but leave not without promiseTo return again for our pleasure next Yule