Honoring Heritage Day in South Africa

Heritage Day

September 24 is Heritage Day, a holiday that celebrates South Africa’s roots and the nation’s vibrant and diverse cultures. South Africa is called the “Rainbow Nation” due to the country’s various cultural, racial and ethnic groups, and Heritage Day encourages citizens to remember and embrace the various cultures and heritage that make up the nation. We sat down with members of North Highland’s Johannesburg office to discuss the importance of this holiday, favorite traditions and more. Participants included: 

  • Thokozile Shai, Talent Acquisition Coordinator 
  • Debbie Pillay, Recruitment Marketing Coordinator 
  • Asanda Magidela, Talent Acquisition Sourcer 
  • Neo Mokoena, Global Services Coordinator 
  • Mpho Makatu, HR Coordinator 

What does Heritage Day mean to you?  
Thokozile: Heritage Day is the day that we can all come together and celebrate our cultural diversity, traditions and beliefs that shape us to become who we are today. 

Debbie: Heritage Day to me means celebrating my parents and the lineage they have come from, of which today I would not be the person I am without it.  

Asanda: It is a celebration that I am an African, a Xhosa native who lives in a beautiful country with a diverse population that needs to be acknowledged and appreciated by all. This line from a poem by former President Thabo Mbeki resonates every year: “I am an African, I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.” 

Neo: South Africa is a rainbow nation, so celebrating Heritage Day for me is about celebrating your own heritage, learning about others, allowing diversity and learning how to accommodate one another in our spaces. 

Mpho: For me, Heritage Day means embracing and celebrating the various cultures in South Africa. 

Do you have any favorite traditions?  

Thokozile: The Zulu, Nigerian, Korean and Sepedi traditions. 

Debbie: I think the most important tradition we have is family gatherings and always finding a way to be with them be it virtually or in person. Heritage Day also means celebrating the diversity and cultures in South Africa as we work on being a united country. 

Asanda: Dressing up in the different attires that represent all the different cultures in South African. 

Neo: Because I am Motswana, dressing in the cultural attire would be my favourite tradition. 

Mpho: The best tradition has to be dressing up! 

How do you plan to celebrate Heritage Day this year?  

Thokozile: Hopefully with a safari getaway! 

Debbie: My plan to celebrate Heritage Day this year is to be with family that I have not seen in a year and have a braai. 

Asanda: Spending the day with my friend and going for a game drive. 

Neo: Going to the Free State for an educational tour for the kids on the Basotho culture and hopefully a bit of relaxation for me. 

Mpho: No plans as yet, but I will definitely be celebrating this year. 

What do you want people to know about Heritage Day?  

Thokozile: That Heritage Day is not always about braai (barbeque), but about a day we can all come together and celebrate diversity, cultures and traditions. 

Debbie: Heritage Day is day we can honour the culture and diversity of beliefs and traditions from all over. People should know that no matter how different they are from the next, they always have something to celebrate about who they are, where they come from and they should be proud of it. We learn new things every day and it adds to who we are. 

Asanda: It is a day where all South Africans are encouraged to share, learn and embrace the different cultures that exist in this diverse country, which has 11 official languages. 

Neo: Heritage Day should be a day where we recognize one another, learn about our differences and how we include each other in our lives. 

Mpho: I want people to accept the various cultures present in South Africa, to be proud of who they are and to always celebrate their cultural traditions. 

How can people in other countries celebrate Heritage Day?  

Thokozile: By dressing according to any traditional cultural clothes from any country. Let’s embrace different cultures and learn about other traditions and different types of food! 

Debbie: People all over the world can celebrate Heritage Day by spending the day reflecting on their cultures and traditions and celebrating the heritage of this world. 

Asanda: To step out of their comfort zone, be open to learning, exploring and embracing the different people and cultures that exist in their communities. That all these differences make the world a more interesting place. 

Neo: Many people confuse race with culture when, in fact, people of the same race can have different cultures. Take time to learn about other cultures, develop your own ability to value cultural differences and to prevent cultural misunderstanding. 

Mpho: By taking an interest in learning about various heritage sites, which they can also visit if possible! That will enable them to learn more about their country and heritage as well.