'How to Ruin Christmas' stars share their own Xmas memories, disasters

As the popular Netflix show returns for season two, its director and some of the cast share their festive-season highs and whoopsies

19 December 2021 - 00:04
'How to Ruin Christmas' stars, from left to right, Sandile Mahlangu, Saint Seseli, Yonda Thomas and Motlatsi Mafatshe.
'How to Ruin Christmas' stars, from left to right, Sandile Mahlangu, Saint Seseli, Yonda Thomas and Motlatsi Mafatshe.
Image: Mosa Hlophe/Netflix

With the launch of the highly anticipated season two of How to Ruin Christmas on Netflix on December 10 your favourite cast members are back — with more laughs and familiar family drama.

This time round, the unfortunate passing of Gogo Twala turns a hoped-for quiet Christmas into an event that requires the Sello and Twala families to come together true to the How to Ruin Christmas tradition. What can go wrong?

We spoke to some of the cast members and the show's director about some of their fondest Christmas traditions and memories — and what they think are the worst ways  Christmas can be ruined.  


Lurayi plays Tumi Sello, the troublesome sister and black sheep of the family

Has someone ever ruined Christmas for you? How?

I’m going to apologise because they’re going to see this, but sometimes it’s my very family that ruins Christmas for me. The expectations from family can be the things that go wrong. It’s the coming home, it’s the “When are you getting married? When are you having children?”

Yonda Thomas and Busisiwe Lurayi in 'How to Ruin Christmas: The Funeral'.
Yonda Thomas and Busisiwe Lurayi in 'How to Ruin Christmas: The Funeral'.
Image: Mosa Hlophe/Netflix

Where do you most enjoy spending Christmas?

There’s always that matriarch who’s going to make the decision for you, so it’s not as if you get the option. And it hit me — I know why we always have Christmas at the matriarch’s. [It’s] because she always has to be the cop who gets things together.

Like “I know you don’t get along with your cousin but you have to love each other.” I have a huge family, so this time it’s at grandma one, this time it’s at grandma two. It’s always a time for the families to come together.

What is one thing you always insist on doing over Christmas?

Growing up, my mother used to convince me to be up before 5am because apparently the sun dances at Christmas. As you grow you realise that the sun dances every day, because it’s an optical illusion. We don’t have the concept of a Christmas tree and a chimney, so some of our traditions are things like that. I do it with my little one and I love the fact that I still have the most naïve seven-year-old. The only thing now is, because of that tradition, I have to be up every Christmas day at 4.30. And I can’t un-tradition it for her. I can’t ruin my child’s Christmas. It absolutely warms my heart, but it’s also hilarious.


Thomas plays Khaya Manqele, Tumi's complicated love interest

Have you ever ruined Christmas? How?

Yes, I have. I don’t know why I chose not to go home [one year]. I think I was working or something and my grandmother, to this day, speaks about it every Christmas. I feel like if you don’t show up you’ve ruined Christmas and you will forever be reminded about how you ruined Christmas.

What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

WATCH | The trailer for 'How to Ruin Christmas 2'.

When I grew up, every Christmas you would get Christmas clothes and I would always be looking forward to that. In many ways I’ve stuck to it, because every Christmas I’m like, I’ve got to have something nice to wear. And now I get things that I like, because [back then] you wouldn’t know what your Christmas clothes were until Christmas day when your grandmother would have made you this jersey and you’re like, eish ...

What are your thoughts on a white Christmas versus a sunny Christmas?

Me and the cold: no. Summer, December, we’re out there, we’re in the swimming pool. Snow is great but seeing the sun dance on Christmas morning [is the best]. If it rains on Christmas, no!


Mafatshe plays Themba Twala

Have you ever ruined Christmas? How?

I once messed up someone’s wedding during festive Christmas vibes. I was playing piano and everything was going so nice. The intro was incredible, but then I saw a girl that I once loved and I forgot the chords. I sang out of tune and ruined those videos. I feel bad.

What does the perfect Christmas look like for you?

I’m forever shooting and away most of the time, so just to spend time with my family and bond and see how far they’ve come during the year. To listen to their dreams and aspirations and catch up with long-lost friends. I want to see their growth or new homes, what they’re doing. Being far away from the TV and showbiz life and just linking up with people — for me, that’s Christmas.

Is there one dish you always insist on having for Christmas lunch?

I’m a meat kind of guy: pap and braai and chakalaka. Yes, we’re going to have seven colours but we make sure that we get enough meat, and we spend that whole day just braaing and listening to stories, having a drink and talking about who did what last year and who’s hot or who’s not.


Chuene plays Aunt Grace

Clementine Mosimane, Desmond Dube and Rami Chuene (centre), who plays Aunt Grace.
Clementine Mosimane, Desmond Dube and Rami Chuene (centre), who plays Aunt Grace.
Image: Mosa Hlophe/Netflix

What is the worst way to ruin Christmas?

One of the biggest ones is actually not showing up. That is the highest level of disrespect because in black families there are different chores and responsibilities that are assigned. If there’s a braai, it is so and so who is braaing, and it is this aunt who is going to make dumplings, this one is going to make oxtail, this one is going to do this, this one is going to bring alcohol. So if one of them falls out then everyone else gets upset because it means your part of the responsibility falls off and now I’m supposed to do that. It’s a crime.

Is there something unconventional you enjoy doing over Christmas?

During Christmas you can’t think anything unconventional; it’s all about family. You can’t even make plans over that time. You’re allowed to do anything you want throughout the year and no-one will bother you, but over Christmas there will be a fight if you do other things unconventional. No-one is going to appreciate you at all.

Have you ever found yourself in an awkward situation over Christmas?

All the time. In the WhatsApp group it’s always like, OK guys, how much are we contributing per family towards Christmas? Everybody agrees [on an amount] and paying the first half at such and such a point, but there’s always going to be one or two culprits who conveniently forget to contribute their money.

So during Christmas, when we’re supposed to eat and that one is trying to get that drumstick, someone will be like no, no, no, do not touch that drummie because you know that you did not pay for this and this and that. There’s always a story. Each and every Christmas is drama, but also, what’s a drama-free Christmas?


Ramaphakela is the creator, director and executive producer of the show, along with her brothers Katleho Ramaphakela and Tshepo Ramaphakela

Rethabile "Retti" Ramaphakela.
Rethabile "Retti" Ramaphakela.
Image: Mosa Hlophe/Netflix

What is the quickest way to ruin Christmas?

Forgetting to bring your part, because everyone always has to bring something. Ice is very important. It can ruin Christmas if your drinks are warm. I always think no-one brings enough ice, and on Christmas in SA the garages run out of ice because everyone wants ice. [Revealing] the family secrets before we’ve eaten is a no-no. At least wait until we’ve had our lunch and we’re on the wine, because then you can let the tongue slip and people will forgive you. Also, lunch being late.

What is your most memorable Christmas?

My aunt used to live in Lebowakgomo [in Limpopo] and she was selling her house so we were like, we’ve had so many Christmases there, let’s go and have one more Christmas. So all the cousins, the aunts, the uncles, we all drove there. I have a bit of a drunk uncle person and he decided that we were going to camp in her back yard because there were so many of us we couldn’t all fit in the house. We brought tents which we put in the back yard, and while people were cooking inside me and the cousins and [the drunk uncle] were cooking potjie outside and getting drunk. We literally slept outside in tents, and I’ll never forget that Christmas.

What do you love most about a South African Christmas?

You can do anything 364 days of the year but it’s the one day of the year you actually have to visit family. And as much you know your mother or your aunt might drive you crazy, it’s going to be fun by the end of it. And I love that it’s hot. I think that’s what differentiates us from the Western world. And it’s always the bigger families. It’s like, get the aunts, and the cousins. Then there’s who’s going to wash the dishes. I think that’s what makes South African Christmas memorable.