Burn the past on National Braai Day

Monday September 24 is Heritage Day, a public holiday in South Africa. But this year it may just become more famous as National Braai Day.

Many South Africans already see the holiday as an excuse to get together with friends and indulge in a braai, something that according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu—National Braai Day’s patron—is unique to South Africa.

“National Braai Day will allow us to get together, burn the past and cook up a succulent future,” says Jan Scannell, CEO of National Braai Day. “Braaiing unites us all in a common purpose and transcends racial, social, cultural and language barriers. There’s really no excuse not to gather your family and friends and whip up a feast—it’s the start of summer and a public holiday.”

Research conducted through online polls about two months ago suggests that about 36-million people braai at least once a week, he adds.

Scannell says National Braai Day is a non-profit initiative that should eventually have the same impact and relevance as St Patrick’s Day or the Fourth of July in the United States. He hopes to measure the success of the day by getting all braaiers to SMS the number of people attending their braai on September 24 to 34761.

Scannell told the Mail & Guardian Online that National Braai Day is about “feeling good about yourself and about enjoyment of South Africa and the positiveness of South Africa”. It is not about big events, but rather about having a braai with family and friends.

Tutu, as the patron of National Braai Day—has supported the project’s aim of “enjoying a day of celebration”.

“This National Braai Day initiative reflects the spirit of South Africans and embodies the unique methods we employ as a nation to promote democracy, patriotism and national pride,” the archbishop said at a media conference in Cape Town on September 5 to honour his patronage.

“We have, what, 11 official languages but only one word for this wonderful institution … braai. It’s braai in Xhosa, it’s braai in Afrikaans, it’s braai in English, it’s braai in whatever, and it has fantastic potential to bind us together, because all it calls for is … come with your friends, your family, have a little fire and braai. Don’t do anything else. I mean, that should make you proudly South African,” Tutu said.

South Africans are encouraged on Heritage Day to celebrate their cultural heritage and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions. The day is also meant to commemorate the past and the struggles of apartheid. This year’s theme, designated by the government, is Celebrating South African Poetry.

The Gauteng government will be celebrating at Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind world heritage site outside Johannesburg, with poetry in indigenous languages, among other activities.

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