I was around 11 years old when my father remarried. In choosing what parent to reside with by order of the divorce decree I chose my father who was granted full custody. There were several reasons why I stood firm to live with my Pops. The main reason was the fact that he earned 6 figures. I truly enjoyed the big house, my friends, school and I wasn’t even sure did my mother know I existed. My mother enjoyed the taste of Martini’s morning, noon and night. Her favorite saying after the first sip was Shaken Not Stirred and she repeated that James Bond quote a lot.
I was an only privilege child before that old South African traditional wedding took place that described the tasting of four elements, lemon, vinegar, pepper and honey. They were used to create a sensory centerpiece, with four decorative pots containing each element included in a simple floral centerpiece. Each guest was given a spoon and a card that explains the tradition. Guests were invited to taste the four elements along with the newly married couple. That ritual dramatized the “Traditional” promise to love “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
My father Professor Aaron Weinberg was an Aerospace Engineer. In the summer of 1973 he took a job in Johannesburg, South Africa of all places. He was assigned to work with The South African National Space Agency. The South Africa's government agency is responsible for the promotion and development of aeronautics and aerospace space research. It fosters cooperation in space-related activities and research in space science, seeks to advance scientific engineering through human capital, as well as the peaceful use of outer space and supports the creation of an environment conducive to the industrial development of space technologies within the framework of national government.
Johannesburg once was informally known as Jozi, Joburg or "The City of Gold", is the largest city in South Africa, classified as a megacity and is one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world. It is the provincial capital and largest city of Gauteng, which is the wealthiest province in South Africa.
When the jubilant Professor returned home after 16 months of very little communication between the two of us. I soon discovered that he had remarried and African woman and her six children.
The Professor proudly boasted to anyone who would listen that he truly enjoyed one of the South African wedding traditions. He shouted at the top of his lungs the Money Dance!!! The Money Dance is a tradition in South African culture in which the bride and groom dance together for as long as they can while the guests shower them with money. The money is then gathered up and depending upon the culture may be kept by the newlyweds or in some cultures it is given to the mother of the bride. They gladly turned over the 12,000 Rands ($782.70) to the new Mrs. Adhiambo Weinberg’s mother.
Talk about a culture shock! Being a white boy living in Beverly Hills, California you couldn’t or don’t want to know what was running through my small brain at the time. I was almost tempted to move back in with my alcoholic mother and her now newfound love for the bubbly stuff Dom Perignon Vintage. Taking the lesser of two evils I decided to stay with my father and his lovely black African bride and his now 6 dark skinned adopted children.
As time passed we all got along quite well. It wasn’t until Christmas when I experienced the difference in traditions. In fact my mother and I were Jehovah's Witnesses believing that if one honors a human institution, person or animal, this is a form of creature worship. I was taught to believe that God should get all the honor and glory. Celebrating holidays such as birthdays, Christmas or Easter or Mother's Day and Father's Day are considered wrong because it honors humans to excess. In which makes sense that we don’t celebrate such traditions because we believe Jesus is equal to God.
My father chose to be agnostic instead of following the Jewish tradition in faith. Professor Weinberg is a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.
African history has an additional layer to the worldwide known account of Christmas. The earliest signs of Christian belief were found in Egypt in the 1st century AD. In South Africa, it symbolizes the birth of African God Ra (Osiris). So, when South African people decorate trees during this period, they are sending regards to ancient times when Ra’s birthday was celebrated. It is also considered the celebration of the winter solstice. Not knowing anything about going to church on Christmas day blew my mind. I was truly fascinated with the church ceremonies consisting of carols, nativity play and dance performances. After church, our families and friends (minus my dear ole mother, who drank too much rum eggnog) gathered for a feast of roast meat, vegetables, rice and roast potatoes. Some of us had a “Bring-and-Braai”, in which each family brought their own meat to barbeque (they call it braai) and a salad or side dish as “potluck” to share with the group. A popular dessert, not just at Christmas, is Malva Pudding, which is served with custard or ice cream. I wasn’t too keen on that dessert. The Christmas dinner was a perfect opportunity for our different family gatherings.
Looking back long before my father brought new and exciting traditions into my life. I can clearly recall that I wasn’t allowed to watch those traditional Christmas movies such as Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooge, It’s a Wonderful Life and the Xmas movie I enjoyed most of all was Bad Santa. Instead of expensive gifts, people usually gift each other affordable items or services. I helped my stepmother provide to those who were less fortunate by donating books, clothes and toys to the homeless, orphanages and churches.
Over the years I have learned to understand the various traditions of my new extended South African Klan, but there is one tradition I will never practice. While spitting is considered rude in many cultures, especially in South Africa it is the customary way of greeting and showing respect. They may spit into their hands before shaking yours and they also do this to newborn babies or even a bride to bless them and bring them good luck. That South African tradition did not work when my father tried it on my mother’s trembling drunken hand.
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stunningly interesting. keep it up!