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holidays – meaning

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South African Public Holidays – what are they?

Human Rights Day – 21 March

This day commemorates the massacre at Sharpeville on 21st March 1960 when a demonstration against the pass system had the police at the Sharpeville police station feeling threatened, they opened fire, resulting in deaths and injuries.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)  was launched on 21 March 1996, 35 years after 21 March 1960 Sharpeville massacre

Good Friday*

A day commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

* Good Friday and Easter Sunday’s dates are determined by the ecclesiastical moon. Varying each year, they fall sometime between late March and late April.

Family Day*

The name Family Day, was given to Easter Monday in acknowledgement and respect for all different religious traditions of South Africa.

Freedom Day – 27 April

Freedom Day commemorates April 27 1994, on which day South Africa’s first democratic elections were held.

Workers Day – 1 May

Workers Day – also known as May Day in some countries, is an internationally recognized public holiday.

This day recognizes the historical efforts of workers and trade unions to achieve fair employment standards.

Youth Day – 16 June

Youth Day commemorates the protest of 20 000 pupils in Soweto on 16 June 1976. against the Bantu education system in Apartheid South Africa, with its separate schools and universities, poor facilities, overcrowded classrooms and inadequately trained teachers for black learners.

National Women’s Day – 9 August

This day commemorates the national march on 9 August 1956 of a crowd of women to petition against pass laws.

Heritage Day – 24 September

Celebration of the diverse cultures in South Africa.

Day of Reconciliation – 16 December

Originally the ‘Day of the Vow’. After negotiating for land on which to settle a Voortrekker party were murdered by Zulu King Dingane. In the ensuing fierce Battle of Blood River on 16 December 1838 the Voortrekkers vowed to honour that day with thanksgiving in commemoration of their win over the Zulu army.   Today the 16th of December is still marked as a public holiday, but now with the intention of promoting reconciliation and national unity.

Christmas Day – 25 December

The international public holiday to celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Day of Goodwill – 26 December

As Boxing Day looks back to British historical culture – where gifts were collected to be given to the underprivileged on the day after Christmas, South Africa has renamed the holiday the Day of Goodwill – a day of sharing goodwill and festive cheer among all South Africans.