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South Africa has a rich and diverse background of different cultures and Heritage Day is just the time to celebrate and enjoy all of them!

History of Heritage Day

Heritage Day is a public holiday in South Africa that celebrates the roots and history of diverse cultures. Beginning in 1996, this day has been commemorated in South Africa, which is sometimes referred to as the “Rainbow Nation”. South Africa has a wide range of diverse cultures, beliefs and traditions, and Heritage Day is meant to celebrate the unique variety of contributions of so many different people and groups.

The significance of September 24 as a day of celebration goes back more than a century to the Zulu King Shaka who died in 1828. The date is believed to be the birthday of King Shaka and has been celebrated at “Shaka Day” for many years.

One way the day is often celebrated is by wearing traditional dress to various events that are held across the country. Another way that South Africans celebrate this day is with Braai, which is a zulu word for an informal barbecue that families often host. Different names for barbecue used by South Africans are Shisha Nyama or Ukosa. 

In the past, some suggestions have been made to change the name to National Braai Day, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu even supported the idea. But the effort never made its way to fruition and the day continues to be called Heritage Day.

Learn more about and celebrate South Africa’s history and people with Heritage Day!

How to Celebrate Heritage Day

Get in the spirit of South Africa’s Heritage Day with a variety of ideas for celebrating, including some of these:

Learn More About South African Heritage 

The best way to learn about this type of heritage can be through reading books or watching documentary films that offer information and depict stories, whether nonfiction or fiction,  from the heritage of South Africa. Try out some of these books:

  • Shaka Zulu: The Biography of the Founder of the Zulu Nation by E.A. Ritter

  • Palaces of Stone: Uncovering Ancient southern African Kingdoms by Mike Main & Tom Huffman

  • History of South Africa by Thulu Simpson

  • Johannesburg Then and Now by Marc Latilla

Hold a Braai Barbecue Party

One of the most traditional ways to celebrate Heritage Day is to do it the way South Africans do, with a barbecue. This social custom is an easygoing way to enjoy time with friends and family, enjoying the beautiful weather and cooking over an open fire.

The food served at braai almost always includes red meats, as well as some bread or vegetables that can be made over an open fire. Another dish that might be served at a braai is called pap, which is a porridge that is also cooked in a pot over the fire.

Whatever kind of food is cooked over the open fire, sharing it with family and friends is a great way to celebrate Heritage Day!

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