Heritage Day is an important public holiday in South Africa as it recognises different aspects of South African culture and encourages South Africans across the spectrum to celebrate their cultural heritage, the diversity of their beliefs and different traditions.

Heritage Day celebrates and recognises the diverse cultures that make up South Africa. South African heritage encompasses aspects such as language, history, expression, food, wildlife and land.

The day is also aimed at recognises the living heritage of South Africa as a foundation for communities and
a source of identity and continuity. Heritage Day is celebrated annually on 24 September in an effort to celebrate the traditions and values that contribute to the Rainbow Nation.

Until 1995, the day was known as Shaka Day but was renamed to Heritage Day under the post-apartheid
government.

Heritage Day Facts and Quotes

Heritage Day is unofficially known in South Africa as Braai Day or National Braai Day.

Africans make up 79% of South Africa’s population, 9% are coloured, 9% are white, while Indians/Asians account for 2.5% and 0.5% classify themselves as other.

As of 1997, South Africa recognises 11 official languages and gives all of them equal status. They are:
Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and
Xitsonga. Zulu is the most common language, spoken by over a quarter of the population.

South Africa is building a nation that is proud of its national symbols, our flag and our anthem. They reflect the shared values and the principle of unity in diversity. When the first democratically elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, they did so because they knew that South Africa’s rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build a new nation.

Heritage Day Top Events and Things to Do

Have a braai with all of one’s friends and family. Gather together and have some traditional dishes and meats such as antelope, boerewors, bobotie, chakalaka and pap.

Study some of South Africa’s history to better understand the blend of cultures, origins and ethnicities that
make up today’s South African population. Spend the day at one of South Africa’s many museums dedicated to the nation’s culture.

Some of the favourites are the District Six Museum, the Origins Museum and the Transvall Museum.

Dress up in the traditional clothing of one of South Africa’s many subcultures. It is customary for women especially to adorn their familiar home attire in order to showcase it in the work place and at public celebrations.

Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day. Living heritage is the
foundation of all communities and an essential source of identity and continuity.

Aspects of living heritage include: cultural tradition, oral history, performance, ritual, popular memory, skills and techniques, indigenous knowledge system and the holistic approach to nature, society and social relationships.

In South Africa the term “intangible cultural heritage” is used interchangeably with the term “living heritage”.
Living heritage plays an important role in promoting cultural diversity, social cohesion, reconciliation, peace
and economic development. In every community there are living human treasures who possess a high degree of knowledge, skills and history pertaining to different aspects of diverse living heritage. It is therefore important for South Africans to reclaim, restore and preserve these various aspects of living heritage to accelerate the use of living heritage to address challenges communities are facing today.

The Department of Arts and Culture developed a policy on the South African living heritage. This policy, will set the tone for the South African Agenda and highlight the following roles: safeguarding living heritage as a valuable resource for future generations.