This afternoon we had to go to the mall to buy a ream of computer paper. (As everyone here knows, you can’t buy anything in South Africa without going to the mall.)

I was dreading it. Who in their right mind goes to a mall on December 21? In America, such a trip would involve driving in circles for 30 minutes looking for a parking spot and then fighting hordes of angry Christmas procrastinators.

Instead, we found this:

The Mall at Rosebank, 4:00 p.m., December 21.

Tyson’s Corner Center in Northern Virginia is never this empty, not even at 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in August.

What’s happening here? Is this normal for Christmas week in Johannesburg, or is the economy really as bad as everyone says? Or maybe everyone is buying their holiday gifts from hardworking street artists like Felix and Lovemore. I hope that’s it!

Speculation from experienced South African shoppers is welcome.

Check back for more Christmas Below the Equator posts as the week progresses.

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