South Africa has 12 public holidays as determined by the Public Holidays Act (Act No 36 of 1994) [PDF]. The Act determines whenever any public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following on it shall be a public holiday.

The dates on which Good Friday and Easter Sunday fall are determined according to the ecclesiastical moon. That varies each year but they fall at some point between late March and late April.

Southern African Public Holidays
South African School Holidays


2015 2016
New Year's Day Thursday 1 January Friday 1 January
Human Rights Day Saturday 21 March Monday 21 March
Good Friday Friday 3 April Friday 25 March
Family Day Monday 6 April Monday 28 March
Freedom Day Monday 27 April Wednesday 27 Aprill
Workers Day Friday 1 May Sunday 1 May
Public Holiday   Monday 2 May
Youth Day Tuesday 16 June Thursday 16 June
Women's Day Sunday 9 August Tuesady 9 August
Public Holiday Monday 10 August  
Heritage Day Thursday 24 September Saturday 24 September
Day of Reconciliation Wednesday 16 December Friday 16 December
Christmas Day Friday 25 December Sunday 25 December
Day of Goodwill Saturday 26 December Monday 26 December

The dates on which Good Friday and Easter Sunday fall are determined according to the ecclesiastical moon. That varies each year but they fall at some point between late March and late April.

21 March [Human Rights Day]

The Bill of Rights contained in the Constitution is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa.

The Constitution provides for the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The aim of the Commission is to promote respect for human rights, promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights, and to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in SA. The SAHRC was launched on 21 March 1996, 35 years after the fateful events of 21 March 1960 when demonstrators in Sharpeville were gunned down by police.

The Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952 extended Government control over the movement of Africans to urban areas and abolished the use of the Pass Book (a document which Africans were required to carry on them to 'prove' that they were allowed to enter a 'white area') in favour of a reference book which had to be carried at all times by all Africans.

Failure to produce the reference book on demand by the police, was a punishable offence. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) proposed an anti-Pass campaign to start on 21 March 1960. All African men were to take part in the campaign without their passes and present themselves for arrest.

Campaigners gathered at police stations in townships near Johannesburg where they were dispersed by police. At the Sharpeville police station a scuffle broke out. Part of a wire fence was trampled, allowing the crowd to move forward. The police opened fire, apparently without having been given a prior order to do so. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 wounded.

In apartheid South Africa this day became known as Sharpeville Day and although not part of the official calendar of public holidays the event was commemorated among anti-apartheid movements.

27 April [Freedom Day]

Freedom Day commemorates the first democratic elections held in South Africa on 27 April 1994. Read more about Freedom Day celebrations.

16 June [Youth Day]

In 1975 protests started in African schools after a directive from the then Bantu Education Department that Afrikaans had to be used on an equal basis with English as a language of instruction in secondary schools. The issue, however, was not so much the Afrikaans as the whole system of Bantu education which was characterised by separate schools and universities, poor facilities, overcrowded classrooms and inadequately trained teachers. On 16 June 1976 more than 20 000 pupils from Soweto began a protest march. In the wake of clashes with the police, and the violence that ensued during the next few weeks, approximately 700 hundred people, many of them youths, were killed and property destroyed.

Youth Day, previously known as Soweto Day, commemorates these events.

More information.

9 August [National Women's Day]

This day commemorates 9 August 1956 when women participated in a national march to petition against pass laws (legislation that required African persons to carry a document on them to 'prove' that they were allowed to enter a 'white area').

More information

24 September [Heritage Day]

"The day is one of our newly created public holidays and its significance rests in recognising aspects of South African culture which are both tangible and difficult to pin down: creative expression, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat as well as the land in which we live.

"Within a broader social and political context, the day's events…are a powerful agent for promulgating a South African identity, fostering reconciliation and promoting the notion that variety is a national asset as opposed to igniting conflict.

"Heritage has defined as "that which we inherit: the sum total of wild life and scenic parks, sites of scientific or historical importance, national monuments, historic buildings, works of art, literature and music, oral traditions and museum collections together with their documentation."

(Statement issued by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, 17 September 1996)

In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, (former) President Mandela stated:

"When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.

We did so knowing that the struggles against the injustice and inequities of the past are part of our national identity; they are part of our culture. We knew that, if indeed our nation has to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of division and conflict, we had to acknowledge those whose selfless efforts and talents were dedicated to this goal of non-racial democracy."

Government determines a theme for each year's celebrations.

More on Heritage Day

16 December [Day of Reconciliation]

In apartheid South Africa 16 December was known as Day of the Vow, as the Voortrekkers in preparation for the battle on 16 December against the Zulus took a Vow before God that they would build a church and that they and their descendants would observe the day as a day of thanksgiving should they be granted victory. With the advent of democracy in South Africa 16 December retained its status as a public holiday, however, this time with the purpose of fostering reconciliation and national unity.

During the earlier part of the 19th century, many Afrikaner farmers left the eastern cape and moved inland. Among them was the Voortrekkers, a group of Afrikaners protesting British colonialism and seeking independent republics on what was reputedly empty land. But the land was not empty and clashes between these Afrikaners and indigenous peoples were inevitable.

Late in 1837 one of the Voortrekker leaders, Piet Retief, entered into negotiations for land with Dingane, the Zulu king. In terms of the negotiations Dingane promised the Voortrekkers land on condition they returned cattle to him stolen by Sekonyela (the Tlokwa chief). This Retief did and apparently he and Dingane signed a treaty on 6 February 1838. During the ceremony Dingane had Retief and his entourage murdered - an event which was witnessed by Francis Owen, a missionary who described the scene in his diary.

In ensuing battles between Zulus and Voortrekkers over the next few months numerous lives were lost on both sides.

On 16 December 1838 about 10 000 troops under the command of Dambuza (Nzobo) and Nhlela attacked the Voortrekkers, but the 470 Voortrekkers, with the advantage of gun powder, warded them off. Only three Voortrekkers were wounded, but more than 3 000 Zulus were killed during the battle.



2015 2016
Chinese New Year Thursday 19 February Monday 8 February
St. Valentine's Day Saturday 14 February Sunday 14 February
March Equinox Friday 20 March Sunday 20 March
St. Patrick's Day Tuesday 17 March Thursday 17 March
Mother's Day Sunday 10 May Sunday 8 May
June Solstice Saturday 21 June Monday 20 June
Father's Day Sunday 21 June Sunday 19 June
National Secretary's Day Wednesday 2 September Wednesday 7 September
September Equinox Wednesday 23 September Thursday 22 September
National Bosses Day Friday 16 October Monday 17 October
Halloween Saturday 31 October Monday 31 October
Guy Fawkes Wednesday 5 November Saturday 5 November
Thanksgiving Day Thursday 26 November Thursday 24 November
December Solstice Tuesday 22 December Wednesday 21 December


Ash Wednesday Wednesday 18 February
Palm Sunday Sunday 29 March
Holy week (commence) Monday 30 March
Good Friday Friday 3 April
Easter Sunday Sunday 5 April
Ascension Day Thursday 14 May
Pentecost Sunday 24 May
Whit Monday Monday 25 May
All Saints Day Sunday 1 November
Christ the King Sunday 22 November
Advent Sunday Sunday 29 November
Christmas Day Friday 25 December
Please note that all the Holy Days begin at sunset on the previous and end at nightfall
Tu-B'shvat Wednesday 4 February
Fast of Esther Wednesday 4 March
Purim Thursday 5 March
Pesach (Day 1-8) Saturday 4 April / Saturday 11 April
Yom Hazikaron Wednesday 22 April
Yom Ha'atzmaut Thursday 23 April
Lag B' Omer Thursday 7 May
Yom Yerushalayim Sunday 17 May
Shavuot (1st Day) Sunday 24 May
Shavuot (2nd Day) Monday 25 May
Fast of Tammuz Sunday 5 July
Tish B'Av (Fast of 10th of Av) Sunday 26 July
Rosh Hashanah (1st Day) Monday 14 September
Rosh Hashanah (2nd Day) Tuesday 15 September
Fast of Gedalya Wednesday 16 September
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Wednesday 23 September
Succot (1st Day) Monday 28 September
Succot (2nd Day) Tuesday 29 September
Hoshana Rabba Sunday 4 October
Shmini Atzeret Monday 5 October
Shimchat Torah Tuesday 6 October
Chanukkah (1st Day) Monday 7 December
Chanukkah (8th Day) Monday 14 December
Fast of Tevet Tuesday 22 December
Islamic fasts and festivals are determined by an actual sighting of the appropriate new moon.
Meelaad-un Nabee Mohammed (S.A.W) Saturday 3 January
Laylatul Meeraj (eve) Friday 15 May
Commencement of Ramadaan Thursday 18 June
Lailat al Oadr Monday 13 July
Eid-Ul-Fitr Friday 17 July
Eid-Ul-Adgha Wednesday 23 September
1st Muharram Wednesday 14 October
Day of Aashura Friday 23 November
Makar Sankranti Wednesday 14 January
Maha Shivaratri Tuesday 17 February
Ramayana Week (Begins) Saturday 21 March
Ramanavami Saturday 28 March
Krishna Janmashthami Saturday 5 September
Pitr-paksha Monday 28 September
Navaratri Tuesday 13 October
Deepavali / Diwali Wednesday 11 November