Formerly known as Day of the Vow, as South African holiday, and a time of reflection on dramatic historical and cultural changes.
In 1836 about 400 or so southern African farmers of European Ancestry, known as Voortrekkers, killed about 3,000 Zulu out of an army of 10,000 or so. It was a turning point in South African history. Prior to what became known as the Battle of Blood River, the Voortrekkers made a pact with god; Let us win this battle and we'll make this an annual holiday and build a church and stuff. It is possible that god needed a church and a day off, so he let them win. It's also possible that the Voortrekkers had superior firearms. Either way, this is one of a sequence of events that led to the eventual Apartheid Era of South Africa, and as such The Day of the Vow, aka The Day of the Covenant became a holiday celebrated by Apartheid-loving Afrikaners, much to the annoyance of others. So, when the New South Africa was formed, following the release of Nelson Mandela, free elections, and the new Constitution, The Day of the Covenant became Reconciliation Day. This is especially interesting because it could have gone very differently. There could have been a bloody revolution, there could have been the equivalent of war crime trials with executions and long term jailing, and so on. Instead, the holidays got renamed. Well, and some other stuff.
And all the non-previously disadvantaged South Africans (i.e., whites) that I count as my friends and colleagues (and there are quite a few) appreciate this, but now and then I have run into someone who treats the changing of names of holidays, towns, cities, all of it as some kind of personal affront. Lots and lots of South Africans, of all manner of skin color, speak Afrikaans as one of their main languages, or even as a primary language (the idea that Afrikaans is a language of oppression is a naive Western concept), and Dutch/Afrikaans culture is truly part of South Africa and always will be. But so many place names are directly linked to victories (often massacares) of Afrikaners over Blacks (or others) that the place names have to go. A list of city and town names in the former Orange Free State or Transvaal is a list of key characters in Voortrekker history, defeat of the Zulu or other African nations or groups, or architects of Apartheid.
So, happy Day of Reconciliation!
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