Heritage Day gives South Africans the chance to celebrate the diverse culture of their land
Every year, on September 24, the people of South Africa celebrate Heritage Day. The national holiday recognizes the diverse cultures and history of its people, and the month of September has also become known as Heritage Month. A whole month dedicated to the rich history of the nation allows for ample time to cover all of the different cultures that are found in South Africa. This year, the theme of the holiday is "Celebrating the Heroes and Heroines of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa."
The theme, according to the South African Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), will not only teach younger generations of the struggles their nation faced not too long ago, but it will help to propel the country forward. The DAC essentially believes that improving the future depends heavily on educating today's youth about the past, and that this year's theme could close the generational gap. The events that will take place to pay tribute to South Africa's struggle include dance, songs, poetry, oral history narrations and visits to famous sites of the liberation struggle.
"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," former President Nelson Mandela said in a speech during Heritage Day in 1996, according to the South African government information website. "We did so knowing that the struggles against injustice and inequities of the past are part of our national identity – they are part of our culture."
On eve of the holiday, the graves of national liberation heroes and heroines in Mpumalanga and other provinces will be cleaned. Wreaths will then be laid at the grave sites to honor those who gave their lives to the struggle for freedom. The following day, a formal program will be held in Mpumalanga, featuring a keynote speech by President Jacob Zuma.
Heritage Day doubles as National Braai Day, which gives friends and families the opportunity to spend the day together, eating and enjoying one another's company, according to the BBC News. People who are working outside the country will send money to South Africa to help their families pay for the food on National Braai Day.