Heritage Day on September 25 is a day that celebrates South Africa’s roots, their rich, vibrant, and diverse cultures. South Africa is called the ‘‘Rainbow Nation’’ due to its color and diversity, and this is why Heritage Day exists. Its goal is to nurture and embrace South African culture for what it truly is, accepting all races and genders. The day is usually celebrated with a cookout known as a braai and we suggest that you channel your inner South African and celebrate with a feast of your own.
History of Heritage Day
September 24 was previously known in South Africa as Shaka Day, a day commemorating the Zulu King of Shaka. He was known for uniting the Zulu clan together and forming the Zulu nation. Every year, South Africans would gather at his grave to honor him. In 1995 a request for the day to be confirmed as an official holiday was rejected. After receiving some pushback from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a majority Zulu party, it was decided that the day was needed and would be known as ‘‘Heritage Day.’’
Since then South Africans have celebrated Heritage Day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many different cultures that make up their nation. Events are held across the
country with some people choosing to dress up in traditional attire.
There was a media campaign in 2005 that sought to have the day recognized as National Braai Day, to acknowledge the backyard barbeque tradition, but the holiday is still officially recognized as Heritage Day.
Heritage Day timeline
The holiday is finally embraced
After belittling it in 2007, the National Heritage Council endorses National Heritage Day
Let’s Talk Heritage
Ebrahim Rasool, a South African politician addresses the public at a Heritage Day gathering in Gugulethu.
Nelson Mandela addresses Heritage Day claiming that the day will allow the country's heritage to help build a new nation.
Rejected and Neglected
The Public Holidays Bill presented to the Parliament of South Africa does not have September 24 on their list of official public holidays.
The King is Dead
Shaka the Zulu king dies provoking a remembrance day in his name, celebrating that he often encouraged a cohesive nation.
Heritage Day FAQs
When is Heritage Day?
What is Heritage Month South Africa?
Heritage Month is celebrated every year in September. It was created by the government as a way to foster greater social cohesion and a shared national identity.
What was the theme of Heritage Month 2019?
The theme was ‘‘Indigenous Heritage Month’’ and it was centered on maintaining traditional practices while promoting a green economy.
Heritage Day Activities
Read up on South Africa’s history
Do some research on South Africa’s cultural past. Read up on their intense political history (Nelson Mandela’s life to start), racial injustices, languages, and culture in general. There is so much to learn! It will help you understand the day better and why it’s needed.
Host a Braai
Get the tongs out, heat the barbecue, and invite everyone. But if it’s more fun for you, attend a huge braii with people you may not know. The point is to embrace each other.
Share your day on social media
Use the hashtags #heritageday or #braaiiday to share what you got up to for the day and maybe also what you’ve learned. In 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared their thoughts about the day on Instagram. ‘‘The area has seen inter-community tension rise over the last few years, yet days like today show how faith, traditions, food, and music bring people together and celebrate the things that unite each and every one of us.’’
5 Facts About Heritage Day
I am also known as…
This day is also known as National Braai Day.
Africans make up 79% of South Africa’s population.
Born in the 90s
1995 was the first year Heritage Day was celebrated.
The land of plenty
South Africa has 10 heritage sites declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
Different size Braais
Braai’s vary from Potjies, Shisha Nyama and Spit Braais.
Why we love Heritage Day
The day aims to ease tension and we’re all for that. This day is all about unity and we’re loving that message.
It’s all about that Braai
A cookout or barbeque is always a winner in bringing people together. A bit of food, some drinks, and company. What more could you want?
South Africa’s culture is rich and should be celebrated! Be part of this and look more into their culture.
Heritage Day dates