South African Public Holidays And The Reason We Celebrate Them

When Apartheid ended, and the ANC under Nelson Mandela came into power in South Africa in 1994, the country's national holidays were altered to be significant to all South Africans.

21 MARCH: HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

The Bill of Rights included in the national Constitution is the foundation of democracy in South Africa. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) started from the Constitution, seeking to promote respect, protection, advancement and achievement of human rights for everyone residing in South Africa, and also to keep track of and evaluate the observance of these rights.

On 21 March 1996, 35 years following the fateful events of 21 March 1960 when protesters in Sharpeville was gunned down by law enforcement, the SAHRC was introduced.

27 APRIL: FREEDOM DAY

Freedom Day celebrates the very first democratic elections held in South Africa on April 27, 1994. An election whereby all adults had the right to vote regardless of their race, and also the day when the new constitution was implemented.

16 JUNE: YOUTH DAY

Youth Day remembers the protest of 20 000 students in Soweto on 16 June 1976. These learners protested against the complete program of Bantu education in the Apartheid era, that was characterised by individual schools and educational facilities, overloaded classrooms and improperly educated teachers.

9 AUGUST: NATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

A group of women took part in a nationwide march on 9 August 1956, to petition in opposition to pass laws. National Women's Day remembers these events.

24 SEPTEMBER: HERITAGE DAY

Nelson Mandela used the expression "rainbow nation"  when referring to South Africa's different cultures, traditions, practices, backgrounds, and languages. This day is a celebration of this diversity.

16 DECEMBER: DAY OF RECONCILIATION

Before apartheid ended in South Africa, 16 December was referred to as Day of the Vow. While preparing for a battle on 16 December opposed to the Zulus, the Voortrekkers took a vow before God. They promised that, if they win the battle, they would build a church and that their descendants would recognise the day as a day of thanksgiving.

This day kept its status as a public holiday, but on the grounds for promoting reconciliation and national unity.

26 DECEMBER: DAY OF GOODWILL

Formerly referred to as Boxing Day, the Day of Goodwill was renamed to eliminate connections to South Africa's colonial past, and also to be inclusive of each and every South Africans. The day is intended for the sharing of festive cheer and goodwill.