South Africans will enjoy no less than thirteen public holidays in 2019, including an extra public holiday thanks to Youth Day (16 June) falling on a Sunday.
Throughout the year, people often prioritize their annual leave days in order to get the most out of the South African public holidays. After all, rest for the mind, body and soul is important. So we thought we’d give our readers a quick rundown on what these public holidays are, which days they’ll be falling on and what they really mean.
Bear in mind that the national elections will be held in May. Workers are often given a day off to go and vote – which could be quite a lengthy process – and Election Day itself is commonly proclaimed a public holiday as well.
For Employers and Employees alike, it is worth noting the 22 March (Friday), anywhere around 1 May (Wednesday) and 23 September (Monday), as these are popular times to create long weekends.
The confirmed public holidays, celebrated in South Africa, for 2019 are:
• New Year’s Day – Tuesday (1 January);
By the time you read this, New Year’s Day will already be long gone and we’ll be headed well into the second month of 2019. South Africa celebrates New Year’s Day just like the rest of the western world, and it represents the fresh start of a new year and a period of remembrance of the passing year.
• Human Rights Day – Thursday (21 March);
Human Rights Day in South Africa is an annual commemoration of the events that transpired in Sharpeville on 21 March 1960. It is to remind South African citizens of the many sacrifices made as we struggled for the attainment of democracy in our country, and a celebration of the human rights we enjoy today.
• Good Friday – Friday (19 April);
Good Friday is a Christian holiday to commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It is observed on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and is commonly observed with fasting and church services.
• Family Day – Monday (22 April);
After 1995, Easter Monday was renamed to Family Day. Easter weekend, following the solemnly religious Good Friday, is usually celebrated with Easter Eggs, chocolate bunnies, parades and egg hunts.
• Freedom Day – Saturday (27 April);
Freedom Day commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held on 27 April 1994. It is an important day for all South Africans – particularly black Africans – who fought for and value the concepts of freedom and social progress.
• Workers’ Day – Wednesday (1 May);
Often referred to as May Day or Labour Day, Worker’s Day is an international holiday, serving as both a celebration of worker’s rights and as a reminder of the critical role trade unions, the Communist Party and other labour organisations played in the fight against apartheid. Celebrations often involve marches and rallies in support of furthering the rights of workers and other groups that still face oppression.
• Youth Day – Sunday (16 June);
Youth Day is the only public holiday in 2019 which falls on a Sunday. As many of us know, when a public holiday occurs on a Sunday, it is carried over to the following Monday as well.
In South Africa, Youth Day commemorates the protest to spark the Soweto Uprising of 1976. It is a day to honour the courage and sacrifice of the Soweto Uprising youths, and to celebrate all young people across the world. Rallies, marches and awareness campaigns are often used on this day to shine a light on concerns facing young people in South Africa.
• National Women’s Day – Friday (9 August);
In commemoration of the 1956 march of around 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s Pass laws, National Woman’s Day was first celebrated in 1994 under the new South African government.
The women stood silently in protest outside the capital building, and sang a song that included the now-famous words:
The day serves as a reminder of how women once stood up against tyranny, and continue to do so to this day. It is also noteworthy that the entire month of August is used to celebrate South African women and their accomplishments.
• Heritage Day – Tuesday (24 September);
Sometimes referred to as National Braai Day, Heritage Day is actually an encouragement for all South Africans to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to its entire people. Our wildlife, our food, our monuments and works of art, our literature and music and folklore and languages and history – everything that makes us South African – is to be remembered, celebrated and appreciated.
In 1996, President Nelson Mandela declared that Heritage Day would help South Africans use their “rich and varied cultural heritage to build our new nation.”
• Day of Reconciliation – Monday (16 December);
This day is to commemorate the end of apartheid and to promote national unity. The date – 16 December – was chosen to coincide with two previously existing significant dates:
The Afrikaans’ Day of the Vow (in 1838, Afrikaners made a vow to God to build a church, and keep for Him a perpetual day of thanksgiving should He aid them in defeating the Zulu army that surrounded them. The Afrikaners defeated the Zulus against all odds at the Battle of Blood River) and;
The anniversary of the founding of the Umkhonto we Sizwe – meaning Spear of the Nation – the military branch of the African National Congress, in its fight to end apartheid.
The day is of significance to those of both African and European descent, and also marks the beginning of the festive season at the end of the year.
• Christmas Day – Wednesday (25 December);
Ah yes, family gatherings, Christmas lunch, the exchanging of gifts and the attending of church service. Christmas is widely celebrated all over the world.
• Day of Goodwill – Thursday (26 December);
Also known as Boxing Day in other parts of the world, South Africa’s Day of Goodwill is a simple holiday – meant for peace, compassion and relaxation. It is a day of giving, and many South Africans will use this day to donate clothing, food or their time to the less fortunate.
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