Bittereinders Day in Orania Date in the current year: May 31, 2024

Bittereinders Day in Orania Bittereinders Day (Bittereinderdag, “Bitter Enders’ Day”) is an annual holiday celebrated on May 31 in the South African town of Orania. It commemorates Boer partisans who fought against the British Empire in the later stages of the Second Boer War.

The Second Boer War was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states, the Transvaal Republic and the Orange Free State, in 1899–1902. The British Empire strove to expand its influence in South Africa, while the Boer states fought the expansion to preserve their independence.

When the war between the British Empire and the Boer republics became imminent, the Boers launched an offensive into the British-controlled area in October 1899. After eleven months of fighting, the regular armies of both Boer states were defeated by the British army. Realizing that they couldn’t win in an open fight, the Boers launched a guerrilla war to try and force the British from their territory.

After a few more months, there was a split in opinions among the guerrilla leaders. Some became convinced that they couldn’t win and wanted to negotiate a peace, while others were determined to fight on to “the bitter end” (bitter eind in Afrikaans). Known as the Bittereinders or irreconcilables, the latter were motivated to continue the fight because the British had converted refugee camps into concentration camps for civilians.

Sadly for the Boers, the British quickly revised their tactics and responded to guerrilla raids by building fortified blockhouses to protect supply routes, continuing to intern Boer and African civilians in concentration camps, and implementing a “scorched earth” policy.

Despite the fact that the new tactics of the British Army were successful and it became harder and harder for the partisans to fight, the Bittereinders indeed fought to the bitter end: the last of them admitted their defeat and surrendered in May 1902. On May 31, 1902, the British Empire and the Boer republics signed the Treaty of Vereeniging.

The anniversary of the treaty is celebrated in the South African town of Orania as Bittereinders Day Orania was founded by Afrikaners (descendants of Dutch, German and French settlers in South Africa) at the end of the apartheid era as a stronghold for the Afrikaner culture and identity. It is a semi-autonomous settlement open to anyone who defines themselves as an Afrikaner.

Oranians don’t celebrate the national holidays of South Africa. Instead, they have their own set of public holidays, commemorating important events in the Afrikaner history. In addition to Bittereinders Day, Oranians celebrate:

  • Majuba Day (Majubadag), commemorating the decisive battle in the First Boer War
  • Founders Day (Stigtingsdag), commemorating the arrival of the first Dutch settlers in Cape Town in 1652 and the founding of Orania in 1991
  • Language Day (Taaldag), celebrating the Afrikaans language and literature
  • Heroes’ Day (Heldedag), commemorating the birth anniversary of the 5th South African President Paul Kruger
  • Day of the Vow (Geloftedag), commemorating the 1838 Battle of the Blood River between the Boers and the Zulu Kingdom

On Bittereinder Day, Oranians honor the memory of the Boers who died fighting for independence from Britain, as well as tens of thousands of people who perished in British concentration camps.

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Bittereinders Day in Orania, holidays in Orania, holidays in South Africa, Second Boer War, regional holidays