What's the significance of Reconciliation Day and how you can make the most of it

Falling on a Monday this year, South Africans can look forward to a chilled Reconciliation Day. 

This also happens to be in the middle of the school holidays, so this is a great time to get out and spend some time doing a range of fun, family-friendly activities. Wherever you are in South Africa, we’ve got something for you to look forward to.

In case you didn't know, this day of great significance in South African history is also one with an emotive and turbulent origin. Two major historical events occurred on the 16 December, though at different periods in time, which are symbolic of the larger history of racial division and conquest in South Africa.

The first event was the Battle of Blood River which took place in 1838. Voortrekkers moving into the interior of the country clashed with the indigenous Zulu population at the Ncome River in what was one of the bloodiest battles of 19th century South Africa. The victory was thereafter commemorated by voortrekkers and, subsequently the Nationalists, as Day of the Covenant and Day of the Vow respectively.  

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"The other major event took place in 1961 when Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC, was formed, largely, in response to the Sharpeville Massacre. Prior to MK's formation, passive resistance was the modus operandi of the ANC but Sharpeville was effective in bringing about a realisation that this was no longer viable as a sole means of resistance. 

Tasked with promoting reconciliation and national unity, South Africa's first non-racial and democratic government aimed to symbolically acknowledge the significance of this date. The date was thus marked as a public holiday as a symbolic attempt to find a balance between a division-fraught past and the promotion of national unity, racial harmony and reconciliation in a new South Africa.

Take some time out of your Reconciliation holiday to have fun and enjoy your South Africa as it is today, flawed but bursting with opportunities to create a greater society and a more unified, harmonious nation. 

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Here's how, and where, to do exactly that: 

Check out the massive statue of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

At 9 metres tall and weighing in at approximately 3.5 tonnnes, this bronze statue of the father of the nation located at the Union Buildings is a great place to take the family and stand in the shadow of a giant of our history. As opposed to the fist-in-the-air salute that is seen on many statues of Tata Madiba, on this one he is seen smiling, arms outstretched and ready to embrace the nation. Unveiled shortly after his passing in 2013, the statue remains a poignant and symbolic reminder of the imperative of nation-building, reconciliation and unity. 

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Head on over to Rivonia and check out the Liliesleaf heritage site

A location with a storied history, Liliesleaf was the nerve centre and hideout for many of the leader of the revolutionary struggle against apartheid. Today the site plays host to exhibits, artefacts, an auditorium and a cafe serving some of the best meals in the area! Enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee and look out on this historic site and appreciate how far we have come. 

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Check out the Heritage site in Ncome

The site of a clash between cultures is today a museum and heritage site located along the Battlefield route in KwaZulu-Natal. The Ncome River, a tributary of the Buffalo (Mzinyathi) River is a great place to connect with the history of our country and renew your dedication to reconciliation and nation building. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!

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Grab your friends and family and check out a show or performance

Get together with some of the people in your life and relax and be entertained at one of the many great shows and performances taking place around the country. Reconciliation Day needn't be a somber affair, you should celebrate - it is a holiday after all. 

Visit one of SA's top theatres - The Baxter in Cape Town, The Market Theatre in Joburg and The Playhouse in Durban. 

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Enjoy the country’s public gardens.

In the light of South Africans celebrating every national symbol and significant SA features, why not head to Kirstenbosch to see to most magnificent display of our national flower (the Protea) and tree (the Yellowwood)?

You can also head to the equally impressive botanical gardens of Durban or Johannesburg, or the smaller ones in Betty’s Bay, Stellenbosch, or the beautiful ‘garden’ that is the south coast and sunshine coast as a whole!

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