The History and Significance of Heritage Day in South Africa

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  • By PR Team
  • 21 September, 2017

South African flag

Celebrate Heritage Day 2017

Having roots, having a story and having some kind of frame of reference is something that we all hold dear to us. Each of us has a purpose, a vision for our lives and a way in which we wish to create an impact in this world. National holidays such as Heritage day make us stop and reflect on who we are and what we are about. It also helps us find ways to be grateful.  As we get into celebration mode and prepare to get the meat on the sizzle for braai day, here is a little history behind why we celebrate Heritage day and some inspiring thoughts that will help us shape the heritage and legacy that we would like to create in our worlds today.


History of Heritage day before 1995

Long before Heritage day became the holiday that it is today, the 24th of September was a date to commemorate the Zulu King, Shaka. He was celebrated on this day for his contribution to keeping peace between feuding Zulu clans.

When South Africa moved into the democratic dispensation, the Public Holidays Bill was presented to the Parliament of South Africa, but it did not have the 24th of September as a proposed holiday. This was protested by the IFP and as a result a compromise was reached and this day was awarded as Heritage day.

The new identity of Heritage day was aimed at nation-building and celebrating the people of diverse cultural backgrounds that form part of South Africa. In 2007, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu declared the holiday as National Braai Day and encouraged South Africans to come together and be patriotic around this national, unifying pastime.


Why is Heritage Day important to the South African nation?

Too often in our lives we go through the motions and forget to live life consciously. Having a holiday like Heritage day helps us to reframe our thoughts positively as a nation and remember our South African identity.


Holidays such as Heritage Day have the power to make us stop and consciously take note of the people around us in our world. Though we all may belong to different cultural or ethnic backgrounds there is a very homogenous identity that we all possess as South Africans, that comes to light on days like this.

When we as the people of a nation can make an effort to dress up, get together, have braais and do things that unite us all in the name of fun, we can only make progress as a nation from there.


Heritage Day helps us to:

  •  Reflect on our collective identity as a nation
  •  Be conscious, aware and appreciative of fellow South Africans
  • Think about who we are and what we stand for on a personal level
  •  Recalibrate and decide on where we would like to go next


Why it is important to celebrate Heritage Day?

There are many reasons why it is important for us to celebrate Heritage Day. One of the main reasons is that we gain a newfound appreciation and a reminder of our own culture and heritage on a personal level and within our South African identity. Heritage Day is an important nation-building tool and an especially exciting way of reaching out to young South Africans, to encourage national pride.


One of the aspects that I find most heartening about Heritage day, is the palpable joy and participation that I see on the day. People are normally out and about in clothes that reflect their ethnicity and South African identity. Some people come together in the name of dialogue, fun, braais and other types of artistic discourse and expression. Whichever way you choose to celebrate, enjoy the moments and keep flying the South African flag high!

About the Author

Laeeka Khan

Media professional, senior writer and blogger at Educor Holdings. I blog about matters that relate to education and personal development. I am an out-of-the-box thinker, fascinated with perceptions of the minds eye, the power of imagination and creative learning. I am passionate about the human experience, and an avid believer in dialogue, breaking stereotypes, sharing information and the power of the arts. I also appreciate fine coffee and dark chocolate. Join me on this journey of knowledge and exploration.

<< Back to the blog
  • By PR Team
  • 21 September, 2017
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