As South Africans we love our public holidays as they offer us that much needed break and time off from our hectic and demanding schedules and in most instances people use the South African public holidays as a day of rest and not fully aware how the holiday came to be.
An upcoming annual South African public holiday though still a bit further away, but not too far away is on December 16, Day of Reconciliation.
.It’s a time to remember where we came from as a country and start to repair and heal old wounds. The South African public holiday Day of Reconciliation came into effect in 1994 after the end of apartheid with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity.
According to Wikipedia the date was chosen because it was significant to both Afrikaner and African cultures.
For Afrikaners before 1994, 16 December was commemorated as the Day of the Vow from (1979-1993) also known as Day of the Covenant from (1952-1979) or Dingaan’s Day (1910-1951). The Day of the Vowel was a religious holiday commemorating the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at The Battle of Blood River in 1838.
On the other side of the political spectrum, 16 December is also the anniversary of the 1961 founding of Umkhonto we Sizwe (‘Spear of the Nation’) the armed wing of the National African Congress.
And on a much lighter note the day is also the start of the sixteen day South African summer holiday period. It’s the first of four public holidays observed at the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere along with Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill and New Year’s Day. Many small businesses close down and employees go on leave over this period.
The South African public holiday as much as most people view it as a time to relax, as it’s after all a holiday, it’s important to also know and learn about the significance of the day and how it came to be.