South Africa is called the Rainbow Nation for its rich diversity of ancestry, cuisine, landscape and even languages. To help South Africans celebrate their heritage, September 24th is set aside annually to recognize all aspects of South African culture, including creative expression, historical inheritance, language, food, and the land in which they live.
National Heritage Day
The Parliament of South Africa allocated September 24th as National Heritage Day after the 1994 democratic election. An official public holiday, National Heritage Day was first celebrated throughout the country in 1995. In Kwazulu-Natal, the date was already known as Shaka Day in commemoration of Shaka Zulu, the legendary Zulu King who united the various Zulu clans.
National Braai Day
As a way to unify the celebrations of the day and to promote a unified spirit, a 2005 media campaign rebranded the holiday as National Braai Day in recognition of the South African culinary tradition of informal backyard braais or barbeques. And while Heritage Day is about celebrating individual beliefs, Braai Day seeks to unite 50 million people in their love of braai so that Heritage Day can be celebrated together.
The Braai Day Mission
Jan (Scannell) Braai is the man behind the National Braai Day initiative. Together with Desmond Tutu, who was appointed as patron of South Africa’s Braai Day, Jan Braai’s initiative positioned National Heritage Day as South Africa’s annual day of celebration. South Africans are called to unite around fires, to share their heritage with other cultures and to celebrate the diversity that forms the core of the country’s unique values.
South Africa’s St. Patrick’s Day
Where Ireland has St Patrick’s Day, the French Bastille Day and Australia has Australia Day, South Africa’s Heritage Day is the one day where everything South African is celebrated and shared. This day contributes to the strengthening of South Africa as a nation through the act of nation building and social cohesion.