Whether you call it December, Dezemba, party time or phuza time, the summer holidays are here — and even the nailbiting suspense of the ANC conference can’t prevent us from kicking back and enjoying some downtime with friends and family.

Whether you’re embarking on a vacation or a staycation, hitting the beaches or chilling inland away from the madding holiday crowds, there’s a bumper crop of events to keep your spirits high, the good times rolling and the blues (and politics) at bay.

GAUTENG

Cinderella on Ice — Teatro at Montecasino, Fourways, until January 7: Russia’s Imperial Ice Stars are regular visitors to our shores with their enchanting ice ballet shows such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Tony Mercer’s new production is a deviation from the original fairytale, which may be welcomed by some and puzzled over by others. Cinderella is now a chorus dancer who is bullied by her stepsisters, falls for a mayor’s son instead of a prince and has a gypsy fortuneteller instead of a fairy godmother. There’s magic, enchantment and spectacle aplenty, with champion ice skaters pulling off dazzling moves to a contemporary score. Also check out A Handful of Keys and A Christmas Carol at the Montecasino Theatre. Book at Computicket.

Christmas with the Welsh Male Voice Choir — Lipizzaner Centre, Kyalami, until December 23: The magnificent white dancing stallions will be prancing and strutting to classical music as well as the stirring strains of SA’s Welsh Male Voice Choir. Expect merry Christmas carol singalongs and a visit from Santa. Always lovely for the kids, who can meet the regal horses and feed them carrots afterwards. Book at Computicket.

Dino Expo — Flora Mall, Roodepoort, until January 14: So, you thought the dinosaurs were extinct? Think again. Here you’ll step back in time and enter a magically lit forest wonderland filled with animatronic jurassic creatures. Yes, they actually move! Great interactive fun for the kids, and educational too — especially if you don’t know your pteranodon from your iguanodon, or that there was more than one kind of tyrannosaur. Book at Computicket.

Afropunk Joburg — Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, December 30-31: Billed as "unapologetically black", Afropunk is an artistic and political movement that’s swept the world. Now it’s coming to Joburg for two days over new year, with a killer intercontinental line-up that includes Solange Knowles, Anderson Paak, Blk Jks, Laura Mvula, Petite Noir, Spoek Mathambo, The Brother Moves On, Nakhane, Black Motion, Kid Fonque and many more. Eat, drink, shop for authentic local wares at the market, free your mind and enjoy the music. Visit www.afropunkfest.com for tickets.

Pinocchio — Mandela Theatre at the Joburg Theatre, until December 30: Janice Honeyman’s latest pantomime stars the beloved Tobie Cronjé as Geppetto and Kanyi Nokwe as the mischievous puppet who comes to life. Expect a madly entertaining jumble of current affairs, popular tunes and merry mayhem to explode on stage in this hilarious family adventure. Book at www.joburgtheatre.com.

EASTERN CAPE

Black Coffee Homecoming — Mthatha Country Club, December 21: Fresh from wowing crowds from Ibiza to New York, SA’s hottest international house DJ is home for the holidays — and one of his tour stops is the town where he grew up. Supported by childhood friend Kabila and other locals, Black Coffee (aka Nathi Maphumulo) will be spinning great music while sharing stories and reminiscences. Book at Computicket.

JBay Rocks — Jolly Dolphin in Jeffreys Bay, December 22-31: Jeffreys is definitely party central these holidays, with a killer line-up of SA artists bay including Bok van Blerk, Sketchy Bongo, Fokofpolisiekar, Chunda Munki, Theuns Jordaan and more. Book at Computicket.

DJ Black Coffee. Picture: THE TIMES
DJ Black Coffee. Picture: THE TIMES

New Year’s Eve Festival of Lights and Lantern Parade — Bethesda Arts Centre in Nieu-Bethesda, December 31: Make your own lantern at one of the workshops, then join the parade for a magical night through the mystical Karoo town of Nieu-Bethesda, home to Helen Martins’s famous Owl House, before braaiing and dancing the night away under the stars. Visit http://www.bethesdafoundation.org.

Spar Outdoor Cinema and Carols by Candlelight — Happy Valley, Humewood, Port Elizabeth, December 22: This festive family event features a movie on a large outdoor LED video wall, plus Matthew Mole and some of Nelson Mandela Bay’s foremost performers leading a jolly karaoke singalong of Christmas carols. Entrance is free. Visit http://www.nmbsummer.co.za/ for details.

Zahara in Concert — Tramways Building, Port Elizabeth, December 27: Armed with her guitar and a voice to rival Tracy Chapman, the multiple award-winning Loliwe singer will be mesmerising audiences, supported by Bongani Tulwana and other Nelson Mandela Bay artists. Book at Computicket.

Multiaward-winning Afro-Soul singer, Zahara. Picture: VELI NHLAPO/SOWETAN
Multiaward-winning Afro-Soul singer, Zahara. Picture: VELI NHLAPO/SOWETAN

FREE STATE

Planetarium shows at the Lamont-Hussey Observatory on Naval Hill in Bloemfontein, December and January: Race through the universe and touch the stars during these family-friendly space shows touching on everything from dark matter to aliens, including Phantom of the Universe, Fragile Planet, The Search for Life: Are We Alone, From Earth to the Universe and The Amazing Telescope. Tickets for these shows start at R20 for children and R30 for adults.

Momentum One-Day Cup — Various venues around SA, from December 20: Kick back during the holidays by watching SA’s top cricketers in action in this one-day international competition, with fixtures in Johannesburg, Centurion, Durban, Oudtshoorn, Kimberley, Potchefstroom, Port Elizabeth, Benoni, Cape Town, East London, Paarl and Bloemfontein. Book through TicketPros.

KWAZULU NATAL

Fact Durban Rocks — People’s Park, Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, December 31: This looks set to be a New Year’s Eve party to end all others, with a smoking-hot line-up that includes Black Coffee, Cassper Nyovest (fresh from filling up FNB Stadium), Nigerian superstar Davido, DJ Tira, Babes Wodumo, Big Nuz and Professor. Book at Computicket.

Umhlanga Summer Festival — Umhlanga Rocks, until December 23: This family-centric festival is headquartered on Umhlanga’s beautiful beach, with fun daily activities as well as a community beach clean-up to keep it pristine. There’s also a trail run from Sibaya Casino on December 17 and Carols under the Stars at Granada Square on December 20. Visit the Umhlanga Tourism Facebook page for details.

Sinbad the Sailor — Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Durban, until January 7: Durban’s annual Christmas pantomime, courtesy of the madly brilliant minds at KickstArt Productions, is a riotous romp across the seven seas in the company of Sinbad and his madcap crew. Expect gloriously silly fun, colourful sets and costumes and jolly singalongs in this mash-up of Bollywood meets the Arabian Nights. Book at Computicket. For a saucier encounter, check out adult panto Dracula at the Club Altitude supper club venue ... a naughty but nice romp, with tickets available from Quicket.

The Secret of Beads/Imfihlo Yobuhlalu (until April) and Zanele Muholi: Homecoming (until February) at the Durban Art Gallery: Photographer and activist Muholi has won multiple awards and been fêted around the world, yet this will be her first solo exhibition in her hometown. It unflinchingly depicts the alternating brutality and joy faced by SA’s black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community. The beadwork exhibition showcases the richness of Zulu culture, with more than 100 fascinating artefacts from the gallery’s collection. Visit the Durban Art Gallery’s Facebook page for details.

Durban Jazz Festival — Hazelmere Dam, Durban, December 25-26: Kicking off with a Gospel Night on Christmas Day featuring Joyous Celebration, the 15th edition of this jazz festival continues on Boxing Day with a blue-chip line-up that includes Caiphus Semenya, Thandiswa Mazwai, Ringo, the Jaziel Brothers, Amanda Black, Brenda Mtambo and Soul Kulture. Book at Computicket.

Prime Circle rocking The Venue. Picture: MARK ANDREWS/DAILY DISPATCH
Prime Circle rocking The Venue. Picture: MARK ANDREWS/DAILY DISPATCH

WESTERN CAPE

Evita, The Musical — Artscape, Cape Town, until January 7: Pieter Toerien’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical about the rags-to-riches rise and tragic fall of Argentina’s Eva Peron is large, grand and gorgeous-looking. While not boasting as much heart and intimacy as his previous bonsai production of the same musical, there is much to admire about this Evita, with memorable songs such as Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and You Must Love Me. British performer Emma Kingston plays Evita, supported by a star-studded SA company including Jonathan Roxmouth, Robert Finlayson and Anton Luitingh. Book at Computicket.

Prime Circle’s Pretty Like the Sun tour — various venues across SA until January 7: One of SA’s best-loved rock bands is hitting the road for 15 shows this festive season, including at the V&A Waterfront, Paul Cluver, Café Roux and Kirstenbosch. They’ll be playing all the hits plus tunes from their sizzling new album, If You Don’t You Never Will. Ross Learmonth and company have been notching up incredible success in Europe of late, but are giving their SA fans first dibs at their new material. Check out www.primecircleband.com for more details.

• Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts — Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town: Who could ask for a better concert setting than arguably the country’s most idyllic world heritage site? Order a picnic hamper, bring a blanket and settle down to watch Mango Groove (December 23), Goldfish and Hot Water (December 31), Freshlyground (January 1), Prime Circle (January 7) and The Parlotones (January 14). Book at Webtickets.

Stargazing picnics — Afrikaans Language Monument, Paarl, December 16 and January 13: Pack a picnic basket (or order one), bring some new or pre-loved books to donate, and visit Paarl at sunset to drink in the picturesque valley and explore the starry skies with members of the Orion Observation Group. Telescopes are provided but you can also bring binoculars, and remember to pack warm clothes. The picnic series is presented in aid of the Let’s Read children’s reading project. Visit www.taalmonument.co.za for more details.

Ring in the New Year at the Baxter Theatre Centre, Cape Town: Head out to this vibrant theatre complex during the holiday season for a proudly Capetonian trio of shows, and if you’re there on New Year’s Eve, stay afterwards for a huge party to usher in 2018. Comedian Marc Lottering dons drag to bring Aunty Merle — The Musical to the stage alongside a large cast and band, while Cape Jazz is Lekke! evokes the flavours of the Cape’s jazz scene and Chantal Stansfield’s one-woman hit comedy From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach completes the summer line-up. Book at Computicket.

Whether you’re away or at home, there’s a bumper crop of events to keep your spirits high