Monday, December 17, 2012

BOTSWANA: HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS

While Botswana is a majority Christian nation, they celebrate only a few of the major holidays with a day off.

New Year’s Day.  January 1-2.  Most people will get together with family or friends and bring in the New Year with food and drink. They also bring in the New Year with a lot of noise, banging pots and pans, blowing whistles and whatever they can find. People also like to bring in the new year with friends and family, and with music and dance, food and drink. I found a blurb that read that some Tswana peoples believe that married couples should have sex at midnight to ensure a prosperous year. They can even file for divorce if one partner doesn’t show up for this ritual.  I wonder how many babies are born around the end of September or early October.


Good Friday.  Varies.  Most Christians in Botswana will attend church services on this day. Traditionally Good Friday is the beginning of a four-day holiday weekend.  Many people will go to their hometowns and home villages to spend the long weekend with family and friends.


Easter.  Varies.  People will usually start the day off with special services at church. Church is usually followed by a great luncheon filled with many types of food and drink.  While there may be some of the American commercial aspects to Easter found in Botswana (like Easter candy or the Easter bunny), most people in Botswana do not know who the Easter bunny is or about coloring eggs.


Easter Monday. Varies.  Most businesses and all schools are closed on this day, including the stock exchange. Most people take this day as a day of relaxation with family.

Labour Day. May 1. This is a day in honor of labor history and celebrates the workers of the world.

Ascension. Varies. This is the 40th day after Easter, and in Christianity it marks the day that Jesus ascended into heaven. The stock exchange doesn’t trade and businesses and schools are generally closed on this day.

Sir Seretse Khama Day. July 1.  Seretse Khama was born into a prominent family in 1921 and went to England as an adult to eventually study to be a barrister. While there, he fell in love with an English woman, and they were married in 1948. Their interracial marriage was not taken well in the era of apartheid South Africa. After banning interracial marriage, it would make them look worse if there was an interracial couple ruling just across the border. So, they pressured Britain to do something about it. Being in debt from WWII, and not wanting to lose their access to South Africa’s gold and other resources, the couple was exiled. The couple eventually came back and slowly worked their way back in politics once more to eventually become the first president of Botswana after gaining independence. His son Ian Khama is the current president of Botswana. I’m fascinated with his story, but maybe because I’m in an interracial marriage myself. In a way, it’s amazing how far we have come, but how far we still have to go.


President’s Day. 3rd Monday and Tuesday in July. Technically, since 2006, President’s Day is now only a one-day holiday. However, in reality, people still celebrate it for two days, including the Bank of Botswana and the government itself.  There are a lot of small festivals that take place in many towns and cities, filled with vendors, food, and music.

Botswana Day.  September 30-October 1. This is the day that commemorates Botswana’s independence from Britain in 1966. People blow horns early in the morning and then spend the entire day listening to speeches, watching live dance contests, music concerts, beauty contests to crown Miss Independence, and of course eating and drinking all day. Parades and festivities are held by local arts and culture societies and lasts until late in the night.


Christmas Day. December 25. Batswana celebrate Christmas in many of the Western ways we are accustomed to in the US and areas of Europe, like decorating Christmas trees and Santa Claus. People usually stay up late on Christmas Eve, singing carols and other devotional songs. After midnight, they exchange gifts.  On Christmas Day, many people dress their best and attend special church services, afterwards visiting friends and family. As with any proper holiday, there is a lot of traditional food and a lot of drinking to be had. In some areas, the people will gather for soccer matches in the afternoon.


Boxing Day. December 26.  There are several different theories behind Boxing Day, but it’s chiefly a holiday celebrated in former British colonies/protectorates (except the US). In most places, Boxing Day has become a day of shopping and deal busters. Some countries in southern Africa (like South Africa) also call Boxing Day “The Day of Goodwill,” and I’m imagining that they use it as a day to give back to the community as well.

Up next: Art and Literature

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