There is no need to sit and bore South Africans or anyone willing to read this with the whole “It is Heritage Day, not braai day” debate, and why the informal name change is a controversy. There is no need to harp on and on and on about what Heritage Day is, why we have a Heritage Day, and why it should be celebrated. Or not celebrated. It has been said and done. You should know these things. You should know them on September 24, and you should know them on the 24th day of any other month as a South African. The truth is, it is just another public holiday and, by “just another public holiday”, I mean that most South Africans cannot afford to have the day off anyway. And, if they can, a public holiday is a day off to do the washing, sleep in or go to events where you can pay to do 67 minutes of something good. For all intents and purposes, it is a real-time Hallmark card – no different from those days we set aside to celebrate our parents or lovers, or the first day of the release of the first episode of Game of Thrones. Seriously, pick one! And, yes, maybe the fact that this specific day is associated with a braai makes it more marketable, or maybe, the whole braai thing was necessary to give it more of a collective meaning? Something we can all do (and I use the word “all” very loosely) together (and I use the word “together” very loosely), to celebrate our differences? Because, let us be honest, how many public holidays are spent actually doing something meaningful associated with that day? In my personal capacity, most public holidays are spent catching up on admin or working – and it is like that for a lot of people, I am sure. On the off chance that there is free time to be had, I can almost assure you that, if you are not paying to attend some corporate campaign on Nelson Mandela Day or tweeting a few things on Youth Day, you, like me, are not even sure what we are supposed to be doing to mark these occasions. Besides knowing what actually happened on those days, remembering them and honouring what they represent and why they are important (on a daily basis, or at least striving for that), if you are not working and you are economically inclined to do so, you are probably braaing anyway. So light a fire. Eat. And get on with it.
(And, by saying this, I am by no means condoning that you fill the pockets of the patron saint of Heritage Day in South Africa – Jan Braai – although I guess by default that is what you are kind of doing anyway. But, in that case, buy your meat well before he and any other corporate affiliates jump on to the marketing bandwagon and just freeze it for later.) And, if perhaps you are part of one of those families, or people or collectives who do not actually know anything about our history or heritage, or do but just suffer from a serious bout of selective historical amnesia, then at least feign interest and spark a conversation in what that the day is set aside for while downing your chop and dop.