September 24 – Heritage Day in South America

Posted on September 24, 2016

"When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.” – Nelson Mandela


To match South Africa's rainbow-ish flag, the former Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called it the “Rainbow Nation,” acknowledging all the ethnic and cultural diversity.

One of the provinces of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, used to celebrate September 24 as Shaka Day, in honor of the legendary Zulu King Shaka. When the lawmakers of South Africa were hashing out the Public Holidays Bill in 1995, the Zulu people objected to the bill because it didn't include Shaka Day. As a compromise, Heritage Day was created.

Heritage Day is often celebrated with braais, which are barbecues – informal backyard get-togethers, good food on the grill. This has been so popular that, to some extent, some people have been calling the holiday “National Braai Day.” I'm not sure that this rebranding will maintain “the reason for the season”...as some concerned South Africans have commented.

Here are some of the groups that make up the nation:

Zulu, Xhosa, Tsonga, Tswana, Swazi, Pedi, Sotho, Venda, Ndebele, Afrikaans (descendents of Dutch setters), descendents of British colonizers, and descendents from Indonesia, India, France, Germany, and Portugal.

One can see some of this variety in the fact that there are eleven official languages plus quite a few unofficial languages! In contrast, many nations have only one official, national language (the U.K., France, Germany are just a few examples).

Of course, many of these groups live in urban areas and wear “modern” or “Westernized” clothes, but here are a few clothing traditions:

Ndebele
Indian
Afrikaan
Tsonga
Venda
Xhosa
Zulu



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