Celebrating Heritage Day in South Africa

south african heritage day

Each year on Heritage Day South Africans dig deep into their wardrobes and fish out their traditional attire to celebrate their unity in diversity. Some citizens, however, see this as a day to meet together with friends and undertake what has become a unique South African tradition – buy plenty of boerewors for a braai.

Heritage Day, celebrated annually on the 24th September, has been set aside for South African’s to celebrate exactly that – our rich cultural heritage as a Nation. Across race, language, region and religion, we as South African’s share one common and unique heritage. Although ingredients may vary, the one common thread we have is that when we have something to celebrate, we gather together, light fires and share great meals.

Formally known as Shaka Day before 1995, the day is a national holiday and gives South Africans a chance to pause and take stock how their diversity can contribute to building a better South Africa.

“Heritage Day encourages South Africans to celebrate not only their own cultural traditions, but also the diversity of cultures, beliefs and traditions that make up the South African nation.” – Cyril Ramaphosa

Celebration of Heritage Day

South Africans celebrate Heritage Day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.

There are different ways that South Africans have come to celebrate Heritage Day. Some wear traditional attire at work – usually on the day before Heritage Day – and some gather at stadiums for a day of celebrations which includes music, dance and speeches by local leaders.

Tsonga women adorn their familiar xibelani attire, a waist-high skirt made of metres of cloth; married Zulu women wear skirts made of cow hide called izidwaba; Venda women parade in their colourful skirts called minweda; and Xhosa women distinguish themselves with their beautifully painted faces and head gear.

But it’s not only women who showcase their flair for traditional fashion. Zulu men also embellish modern trousers and shirts (usually khaki trousers and shirts) with detailed designs and patterns which have come to be known as umblaselo.


 south african heritage day