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


2016 2017
New Year's Day Friday 1 January Sunday 1 January
Public Holiday   Monday 20 March
Human Rights Day Monday 21 March Tuesday 21 March
Good Friday Friday 25 March Friday 14 April
Family Day Monday 28 March Monday 17 April
Freedom Day Wednesday 27 Aprill Thursday 27 Aprill
Public Holiday Sunday 1 May Friday 28 April
Workers Day Monday 2 May Monday 1 May
Youth Day Thursday 16 June Friday 16 June
Women's Day Tuesday 9 August Wednesday 9 August
Heritage Day Saturday 24 September Sunday 24 September
Day of Reconciliation Friday 16 December Saturday 16 December
Christmas Day Sunday 25 December Monday 25 December
Day of Goodwill Monday 26 December Tuesday 26 December
Public Holiday Tuesday 27 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.



2016 2017
Chinese New Year Monday 8 February Saturday 28 January
St. Valentine's Day Sunday 14 February Tuesday 14 February
March Equinox Sunday 20 March Monday 20 March
St. Patrick's Day Thursday 17 March Friday 17 March
Mother's Day Sunday 8 May Sunday 14 May
June Solstice Monday 20 June Wednesday 21 June
Father's Day Sunday 19 June Sunday 18 June
National Secretary's Day Wednesday 7 September Wednesday 6 September
September Equinox Thursday 22 September Friday 22 September
National Bosses Day Friday 14 October Monday 16 October
Halloween Monday 31 October Tuesday 31 October
Guy Fawkes Saturday 5 November Sunday 5 November
Thanksgiving Day Thursday 24 November Thursday 23 November
December Solstice Wednesday 21 December Thursday 21 December


Ash Wednesday Wednesday 10 February
Palm Sunday Sunday 20 March
Holy week (commence) Sunday 20 March
Good Friday Friday 25 March
Easter Sunday Sunday 27 March
Ascension Day Thursday 5 May
Pentecost Sunday 15 May
Whit Monday Monday 16 May
All Saints Day Tuesday 1 November
Christ the King Sunday 20 November
Advent Sunday Sunday 27 November
Christmas Day Sunday 25 December
Please note that all the Holy Days begin at sunset on the previous and end at nightfall
Tu-B'shvat Monday 25 January
Fast of Esther Wednesday 23 March
Purim Thursday 24 March
Pesach (Day 1-8) Saturday 23 April / Saturday 30 April
Yom Hazikaron Wednesday 11 May
Yom Ha'atzmaut Thursday 12 May
Lag B' Omer Thursday 26 May
Yom Yerushalayim Sunday 05 June
Shavuot (1st Day) Sunday 12 June
Shavuot (2nd Day) Monday 13 June
Fast of Tammuz Sunday 24 July
Tish B'Av (Fast of 10th of Av) Sunday 14 August
Rosh Hashanah (1st Day) Monday 03 October
Rosh Hashanah (2nd Day) Tuesday 04 October
Fast of Gedalya Wednesday 05 October
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Wednesday 12 October
Succot (1st Day) Monday 17 October
Succot (2nd Day) Tuesday 18 October
Shmini Atzeret Monday 24 October
Shimchat Torah Tuesday 25 October
Chanukkah (1st Day) Sunday 25 December
Chanukkah (8th Day) Sunday 01 January 2017
Islamic fasts and festivals are determined by an actual sighting of the appropriate new moon.
Laylatul Meeraj (eve) Thursay 05 May
Commencement of Ramadaan Tuesday 07 June
Lailat al Oadr Saturday 02 July
Eid-Ul-Fitr (end of Ramadaan) Thursday 07 July
Waqf al Arafa - Hajj Saturday 10 September
Eid-Ul-Adgha Tuesday 13 September
Hijra - Islamic New Year Monday 03 October 2016
Day of Ashura / Muharram Wednesday 12 October
Milad un Nabi Monday 12 December
Makar Sankranti Friday 15 January
Vasant Panchami Friday 12 February
Maha Shivaratri Monday 07 March
Telugu New Year/ Ugadi/ Gudi Padwa Tuesday 08 March
Vaisakhi / Baisakhi / Vishu Sunday 13 March
Ramanavami Tuesday 15 March
Holika Dahan Wednesday 23 March
Holi Thursday 24 March
Hindi New Year Friday 08 April
Tamil New Year Wednesday 13 April
Bengali New Year / Bihu Thursday 14 April
Hanuman Jayanti Friday 22 April
Akshaya Tritiya Monday 09 May
Savitri Pooja Saturday 04 June
Puri Rath Yatra Wednesday 06 July
Guru Purnima Tuessday 19 July
Nag Panchami Sunday 07 August
Varalakshmi Vrat Friday 12 August
Raksha-Bandhan Thursday 18 August
Krishna Janmashtami Thursday 25 August
Ganesh Chaturthi Monday 05 September
Onam Wednesday 14 September
Vishwakarma Puja Friday 16 September
Mahalaya Amavasya Friday 30 September
Navaratri begins Saturday 01 October
Navaratri ends Monday 10 October
Dusshera Tuesday 11 October
Shardad Purnima Saturday 15 October
Karwa Chauth Wednesday 19 October
Dhanteras Friday 28 October
Diwali Sunday 30 October
Bhai Dooj Tuesday 01 November
Chhath Puja Sunday 06 November
Kartik Poornima Monday 14 November
Geeta Jayanti Saturday 10 December
Dhanu Sankranti Thurday 15 December