Christmas comes once a year – unless you visit Tulbagh on 25 and 26 June for a festive winter weekend with all the trimmings.
However much we love our summer Christmases, many of us have a nostalgic longing for the Christmas of story books and songs: a dusting of snow, roaring log fires, dark evenings lit by candles and fairy lights, and the perfect weather for traditional fare such as gigantic roasts, gammon, gluhwein, mince pies and rich fruit cakes. When chef Carol Collins (now affectionately known as Christmas Carol) returned home to Tulbagh after working overseas, she missed those winter Christmases and started a tradition of a Mid-mass winter feast at her Readers Restaurant. The festivities spread to the rest of the town, and now many years later it’s a highlight of the year, with historical Church Street closed to traffic, a beautiful backdrop to a host of festive activities and foods, with snow-topped mountains on the horizon.
Tulbagh’s Christmas in Winter festival happens on 25 and 26 June this year. The weekend pass gives free entry to the town’s museums, and wine tastings at the valley’s wine estates. Spend the morning exploring the town, warming up with eggnog, gluhwein and hearty lunch fare from the stalls in Church Street, in between museums, art galleries and shopping ahead of time for gifts and stocking stuffers. Make sure the kids are there at noon when Santa rides a fire engine down Church Street handing out treats to the children.
Exploring further up the valley, the wine estates have cellar tours, wine tastings, jumping castles, tractor rides and more. Kids get to play in realistic fake snow at the Vindoux Guest Farm winter wonderland. Or enjoy the scenery on horseback with Tulbagh Horse Trails. For an exhilarating rush, Ceres Zipslide Adventures has 1,4km of slides, and there are trail runs both days if you’d like to run off that Christmas dinner in advance.
As darkness falls the town glitters with lights and decorations, there’s live music, Chris Chameleon at the Saronsberg Theatre (25 June), good cheer at the sports bars and full-on Christmas dinner feasting and jollification at all the restaurants and cafes. Contact the tourism office for menus and book ahead for the dinners.
Experience it for yourself:
Tulbagh Christmas in Winter festival
023 230 1348/75
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.