During the Christmas season, three blocks of a dusty little Karoo suburb suddenly turn into Yuletide London’s Bond Street, complete with neon baubles, Santas and the star that brought the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem.
When the sun goes down and the lights of Acacia Street in Kroonvale, Graaff-Reinet, go on, there’s a collective gasp from all the township kids.
Residents in Santa Claus gear trawl Acacia Street, collecting money for local charities from the motorists who come to look at the lights. More than 500 packs of sweeties are handed out to ecstatic children, who are now on a neon sugar high for an hour or so.
Graaff-Reinet businesses and the local municipality come to the party with sponsorship and safe electricity for the incredible light show along Acacia Street, a tight-knit community that is the centre of the Universe for someone like Jennifer Christians.
“You know, we are like a real family in this street. We care for one another. We love each other. We can call on anyone, and we know we’ll be supported.
“So that’s why I’m here. All the standing and sore feet and staying awake till midnight every night is worth it when the cheque is handed over. Every year, the Bash has grown, and every year we get more compliments.”
The hand-over of ‘the cheque’ happens in the early hours of the New Year, to the benefit of the local Hospice and Cancer Association. And it is a generous cheque – many tens of thousands of rands are handed over.
You will feel a true spirit of Christmas right there, in the middle of Acacia Street, surrounded by a thousand neon shapes – and the spirit of a great Karoo heart.