Christmas Mall

Festive Season at Sandton City
- 19 December 2012 -

Something about this time of the year is special. What makes it special isn't so much about the religious event, as it is about children during the festive season. Yes it is special for religious purposes and it definitely something to celebrate, but children make it magical. Imagine Christmas without any children, it would be comparable to going to church on Sunday, with a twist.

I never seem to learn. My plan was to go to the mall to buy a tripod for my camera and browse some lenses, Sandton City Mall has a great selection of stores that specialise in both, but I thought well - "it makes sense to take my camera along" for obvious reasons, but in addition I could make a day of capturing the festive season. What I forget is, that if you are like me, and love photography, when you have your camera with you, nothing else matter except for the people and scenery around you. Even shopping for photography equipment is boring.

First thing I noticed is the additional lights, red and shiny things around. But it didn't take me long to notice the excited boys and girls who have their parents chasing after them.

I was at the mall quite early so the stores I was intending to visit was still closed and there still wasn't too many people around, so I thought I would go see what decorations I could find. 

The first thing I came across was a "newage" Christmas tree. At first I was a little disappointed, I was looking forward to a traditional green Christmas tree with loads of shinny balls. I decided to have a closer look and found the tree is quite beautiful once I let  go of the idea of "plastic" green pine needles. As a kid I can't remember seeing a real Christmas tree with real pine needles..... but as a kid I didn't really care, it's green, it sparkles, and it normally comes with presents and Santa.

Quite different, this Christmas tree is made of a solid steel structure, wrapped with lights and the decorations are made from old plastic bottles. From a distance you don't even realise it, but upon closer inspection you see the creativity involved. I guess that you could say this was an initiative to recycle, but unless this tree is saved for many years to come all that has been achieved here is giving these old bottles a brief second life.

At this point I needed to step out for a smoke and seeing that I was at one of the malls entrances I thought this would be a good time. As I stepped out I found another huge non-green Christmas tree, also wrapped in lights but it didn't appear to be decorated with ex-Coke bottles.

During my short affair with the sunlight I was also accompanied by some skateboarders.

It wasn't long until one of them mis-judged the step, or the step moved, and there was a little accident. I didn't get a good shot, I didn't want it to be too obvious I was photographing him during his moment of manhood pain.

As I stepped back into the mall I noticed something that got me almost as excited as the kids. A "mall" train. Things like this make me wish I was 5 years old again, apparently it's frowned upon when adults get excited about riding around a mall in the multi-coloured, electric vehicle. Lucky parents!!

By this time the mall had filled up considerably.

I was keen to see what was happening on the first floor. I knew there would be a Santa, I knew this because when I arrived I saw his Santa sleigh.

The kids were lining up to get a seat on his lap and a photo from a pro photographer. This Santa was the real deal, he had a decent non-cotton wool beard (a little weird for me, the same illusion I had about plastic pine needles). But he looked pretty authentic.

As I watched the kids queue in anticipation I came to realise how magical this is for them.

Apparently photos with Santa is not limited to the small people. I started regretting not climbing on the multi-coloured train.

Sandton Mall also had a show starting, "Dora, Boots and Diego". The stage was set and the children and their parents were pouring in to get a seat in-front of the stage. This was my favourite part of the day (from a photographic perspective), I had no idea who Dora, Boots or Diego was, but there was so much atmosphere and excitement in the air. The kids and accompanying parents were "my" show!

I first ventured up 2 floors to get some aerial views. Turns out I liked it up there. You get to "see" the families, their interaction with each other and clearly their love for each other.

But as the show started I saw a different side to the kids, they seem to forget totally what is happening around them (including their loving family) and it all become about the characters on the stage. They are so captivated by these magical characters that they seemed to drift off into the land of "Dora, Boots and Diego". Something I regret most about being an adult.

However I did get a shot of Dora and Boots (I think), just incase you didn't know who they were. All I could think was how hot and sweaty the real people underneath must be getting.

After I left the show I did stop into one of the camera shops, and chatted a short while to one of the sales guys. I asked him a couple of questions regarding some lenses, first he seemed irritated that I didn't know everything about the lenses and when I realised he actually didn't know much either and wasn't going to be of much help, I decided I would visit a store closer to home where the staff are pretty much experts in the field of photography. If you know what photographic equipment costs, you would understand my reluctance to spend my money with people that aren't really interested in my needs or know much about their products.

The day was worth it in the end, it reminded me of how special children make this time of the year for us and how important family and even friends are. It reminded me of the kids we once were and that daydreaming, fantasising and imaginary friends are "real" and that it is all of this that makes our lives interesting and magical.

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