South Africa has 12 public holidays, and while we are all happy to take the day off work, the meaning behind these commemorative days is often lost on most of us! Heritage Day is one of our newest public holidays, and is fairly easy to understand it’s significance when we think about the name; i.e. a day that acknowledges the diverse heritages of the people of South Africa. But how did we come to celebrate Heritage Day and what does it mean to the average South African?
Originally the 24th September was known as Shaka Day, in commemoration of King Shaka Zulu. In 1994 when the Public Holidays Bill omitted this day, the Inkatha Freedom Party lodged an objection and a compromise was reached with the creation of Heritage Day, a public holiday intended to celebrate the diverse heritages of all South Africans.
People in SA choose to celebrate this day in all sorts of way, with many wearing traditional attire, and a number of public events taking place on the day to acknowledge the various cultures of the country. One of the most prominent and successful public heritage campaigns is National Braai Day. Started in 2005 Braai Day aims to bring people together around the fire to celebrate their common roots. As spokesperson, Archbishop EmeritusDesmond Tutu said, “Irrespective of your politics, of your culture, of your race, of your whatever, hierdie ding doen ons saam”.
Photo courtesy of kitchen.net