Learn about the holidays in South Africa

There are a number of holidays in South Africa that are observed throughout the year, including Human Rights, Family and Youth Days, but these are also celebrated with nations around the world. One celebration that is specific to South Africa is the Day of Reconciliation on December 16.

Prior to the dissolution of the country’s 46-year-old racially segregated political system - known as apartheid - a different holiday was celebrated on this date. Day of the Vow (also referred to as Day of the Covenant or Dingaan Day) was religious in nature and references the Battle of Blood River in 1838.

The Voortrekkers (migrant Afrikaner farmers) had opposed British colonialism and sought to become independent, thus they promised to build a church and give thanks every day if they emerged victorious over the Zulu monarchy.

It was not until 1994 that this special holiday was reinstated to commemorate the end of apartheid. The relatively new public holiday focuses on national unity, in which citizens should reflect on the conflict of the past and work towards building a better country.