National Heritage Day is a public holiday in South Africa. It is a day where the rainbow nation comes together to celebrate their cultural diversity and rich heritage.
The holiday has also been referred to unofficially as “Braai Day” since 2005. In this NPR article, Jan Braai, the man behind the campaign for Braai Day, says he hopes the holiday becomes as unifying and celebrated as the Fourth of July is in America. While I didn’t see any fireworks, I did see plenty of people enjoying their day off work, eating boerewors rolls (a flavorful South African sausage) and enjoying the beautiful weather. My husband and I chose to spend the day outdoors, starting off with a guided group hike through the Melville Koppies.
I didn’t realize until I arrived that the Melville Koppies are actually a Nature Reserve and a Johannesburg City Heritage Site, making the hike an even more appropriate spot to celebrate heritage day! The site has interesting geological and archaeological history going back to the Stone Age. We didn’t get the full tour and lecture due to the number of hikers that came out for the public holiday but on weekend tours guides cover the history, geology, flora and fauna of the area.
Want to hike the Koppies? Here’s what you need to know:
- Who: Fit people (this isn’t the trek for people trying to get fit or for young kids)
- What: 3-hour hike + lecture and information on flora, fauna, history and geology of the area.
- Where: Marks Park Sports Club, Judith Road Emmarentia
- When: Full tours held the first three Sundays of every month. Time varies. Check out their website.
- Cost: R40 per adult, R10 per child
- Bring: Snacks and water (I’d recommend two bottles per person), sunscreen & hat, windbreaker (optional) hiking shoes or sneakers.
- NOTE: The Koppies are under conservation regulations and no mountain biking or camping is allowed. Please follow the rules and be respectful of this beautiful reserve.
Phone: +27 11 482 4797 | Web: http://www.mk.org.za/mkcal.htm
So how did I enjoy the rest of Heritage Day you ask? Well I went over to a friend’s house for a braai of course! Chatted, made friends with two adorable yellow labs, and may or may not have indulged in quite a bit wine and a piece of steak. What???? It was all in the name of cultural celebration!
I’ve decided to continue eating my pescatarian diet, but when it comes to cultural traditions, or a home-cooked meal, I’ll become more of a “flexitarian.” This Kathryn Budhing quote from Yoga Journal pretty much sums it up, “I believe in balance and guilt-free eating….Yes there are certain foods I don’t eat, but if someone puts it in front of me with love, i eat it. Sharing food is the ultimate way to say I love you.”
I’m very glad I made it to South Africa in time for Heritage Day and can only hope it becomes as beloved as the Fourth of July. Food, fireworks and fun all in the name of patriotism is an incredible thing.