Day of the Vow in Orania Date in the current year: December 16, 2024

Day of the Vow in Orania The Day of the Vow (Geloftedag) is an official holiday in the South African city of Orania founded by Afrikaners (descendants of early predominantly Dutch settlers at the Cape of Good Hope). It used to be a public holiday celebrated nationwide, but the South African government replaced the Day of the Vow with the Day of Reconciliation following the fall of apartheid.

The history of the Day of the Vow is closely connected to the Great Trek, a migration of descendants of the first Dutch settlers into the interior of South Africa, which resulted in the founding of three autonomous Boer republics: the South African Republic (Transvaal), the Orange Free State, and the short-lived Natalia Republic.

During the migration, the Boers fought with indigenous tribes for land. One of the biggest battles between Voortrekkers (Boer pioneers) and African warriors was the Battle of the Blood River, fought on December 16, 1838.

In February 1838, the Zulu king Dingane killed 100 members of a Voortrekker delegation led by Piet Retief. After the massacre, Zulu warriors attacked several Voortrekker encampments. Having recovered from the massacres, Voortrekkers began to plan retaliation, which eventually led to the Battle of the Blood River. Despite being outnumbered, they killed 3,000 Zulu warriors without losing a single person.

On the eve of the battle, Voortrekkers took a public vow, promising to build a church and forever honor the day of the battle as a holy day of God in return for God’s help in defeating the Zulus. They did keep the vow after winning the battle. The Church of the Vow in Pietermaritzburg was built in 1841, and the anniversary of the Battle of the Blood River was eventually declared a holiday.

In the South African Republic, December 16 was declared a public holiday in 1865. However, it was temporarily discontinued after the annexation of the Transvaal by Great Britain. The government of the Orange Free State declared December 16 an official holiday in 1894.

After the unification of South Africa in 1910, the new South African government officially declared the anniversary of the Battle of the Blood River as a public holiday. It was named Dingane’s Day (Dingaansdag) after the Zulu king whose actions had led to the battle.

In 1952, the holiday was renamed the Day of the Vow (or the Day of the Covenant). The government declared it to be a religious holiday and prohibited certain festive activities, such as theater performances, sports competitions, etc.

After the fall of apartheid, the South African government adopted a new list of public holidays in 1994. The Day of the Vow was renamed the Day of Reconciliation, and it has been celebrated under this name ever since.

However, December 16 is still celebrated under the old name in Orania, a semi-autonomous Afrikaner enclave in the Northern Cape province that does not recognize the national holidays of South Africa. Oranians have their own holidays commemorating important events in the Dutch colonization of South Africa and the Anglo-Boer wars.

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Day of the Vow in Orania, holidays in South Africa, holidays in Orania, Battle of the Blood River, Great Trek