The Day of Reconciliation is a public holiday in South Africa held annually on 16 December. The holiday came into effect in 1994 after the end of apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity.
Date and observance
The date was chosen because it was significant to both Afrikaner and African cultures. For Afrikaners, 16 December was commemorated as the Day of the Vow, also known as Day of the Covenant or Dingaan’s Day. The Day of the Vow was a religious holiday commemorating the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838, and is still celebrated by some Afrikaners. On the other side of the political spectrum, 16 December is also the anniversary of the 1961 founding of Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), the armed wing of the African National Congress.
The day is also the de facto start of the sixteen-day South African summer holiday period. It is the first of four public holidays observed at the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, along with Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill) and New Year’s Day. Many small businesses close down and employees go on leave over this period.