Public Holiday – Day of Goodwill – 26 December

Public Holiday – Day of Goodwill – 26 December: For many people around the world, the festive season is a time for gift-giving and charity. Special attention is often given to the less fortunate members of society and, for many of us, holidays around this period can become wonderful opportunities for displays of kindness that foster social cohesion and a sense of community. These practices are not limited to South Africa and individuals from around the world often hold similar celebrations under different names. But why is this? What is the Day of Goodwill and how is it different to Boxing Day? For that matter, why do we even celebrate the Day of Goodwill in the first place?

The Day of Goodwill is a public holiday celebrated throughout South Africa that often goes hand in hand with Christmas celebrations. The day is meant to shine a spotlight on those in need and citizens are encouraged to show compassion and an altruistic spirit by giving charitably.

Of course, for many of us, the Day of Goodwill just serves as a moment to recover after our raucous Christmas celebrations and people who leave their homes during the holiday are often met with empty streets and closed businesses. That said, some South Africans may use the occasion to host meals for the hungry and to volunteer for local charities.

Public Holiday - Day of Goodwill - 26 December
Public Holiday – Day of Goodwill – 26 December

No doubt, many readers will already know that the 26th of December is often called Boxing Day around the world and even South Africans will occasionally refer to the holiday under this title. But why is this the case? Is there any real difference between Boxing Day and the Day of Goodwill?

Why is it called Boxing Day?Public Holiday – Day of Goodwill – 26 December

Practically speaking, Boxing Day and the Day of Goodwill are identical. They share both their date and their overall theme and the only real difference between the two are their titles. The reason why their names differ can be understood by considering the history of the holiday and its celebration in South Africa. 

Boxing Day OriginsPublic Holiday – Day of Goodwill – 26 December

The origins of Boxing day are actually so ancient that there is still much debate over where exactly the tradition came from. Some theories suggest that it can trace its roots back to a practice in which servants and tradesmen were given presents in boxes by the upper classes while other theories suggest that perhaps the term comes from a church practice in which priests would open alms boxes after Christmas.

Regardless of its origin, Boxing Day has been celebrated in Britain for many centuries and, over the years, it has become a staple holiday. When the British came to South Africa in the past, they brought their traditions and culture with them and it wasn’t long before Boxing Day was an official South African holiday.

Day of Goodwill Origins

Following the end of the Apartheid era, many holidays were altered to reflect the new South African nation, one such holiday was Boxing Day. To celebrate the country’s departure from its colonial ties, the holiday was renamed the Day of Goodwill. While largely identical, the holiday was now officially South African rather than a colonial holdover.

Public Holiday – Day of Goodwill – 26 December

Is the Day of Goodwill Celebrated in South Africa?

While the Day of Goodwill is an official public holiday in South Africa, many citizens still refer to it as Boxing Day and the various traditions related to it are still practised throughout the country.

For most people this simply means inviting the relatives over and creating a Boxing Day lunch with all the Christmas leftovers, however, in recent years, Boxing Day traditions around the world have begun to include a ‘shopping holiday’ during which massive sales can be found in a variety of stores. This new practice has begun to infect the country and, increasingly, South Africans can be found queuing for deals on the Day of Goodwill at any shopping centres that remain open.

When is the Day of Goodwill?

As noted, the Day of Goodwill takes place annually on the 26th of December. In the event that the date lands on a Sunday, the public holiday will be moved to the following Monday. In 2021, the Day of Goodwill is set to fall on a Sunday which means that Monday the 27th of December 2021 will be a public holiday.

Some retail outlets have begun to refer to the entire week between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve as ‘Boxing Week’ in an attempt to boost sales and many related events may take place during this period.

How is the Day of Goodwill Celebrated?Public Holiday – Day of Goodwill – 26 December

As mentioned, the 26th of December is used by most people as a day off to relax and recuperate, that said, there are still many events and activities to take part in if you want to experience a more active celebration.

In previous years, many Boxing Day concerts and outdoor parties have been held in major cities around South Africa with many restaurants and pubs offering great Boxing Day specials.

Additionally, in some of the warmer parts of the country, the Day of Goodwill is seen as a kind of beach holiday that sees massive amounts of vacationers take to the shores if the weather permits.

Of course, while there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of fun on your day off, South Africans are still encouraged to observe the holiday as it was intended and donate what they can to their local charities or to those in their communities who could benefit from it the most.

What is the Law on Public Holidays?

Public Holiday – Day of Goodwill – 26 December

Rules and regulations surrounding public holidays are determined by the Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994. This act dictates how many public holidays South Africans are entitled to, what is to be considered a public holiday, and how payment for public holidays works, amongst other things.

In Conclusion – What is the Day of Goodwill and How is it Different from Boxing Day?

The Day of Goodwill is a public holiday celebrated every year in South Africa on the 26th of December. It is designed to be a holiday during which South Africans consider the plight of those less fortunate than themselves and give generously to their fellow countrymen. Whether this kindness is done by volunteering at a local humanitarian organisation, donating excess items to charity or simply giving a gift to someone in your community who is having a hard time, the theme of the holiday remains the same with the primary focus being put on the foundation of a generous and loving nation.

The Day of Goodwill is virtually identical to Boxing day which is celebrated internationally. This is due to the fact that, until recently, the 26th of December was celebrated as Boxing Day. After the end of Apartheid, the South African government chose to rename or otherwise alter various holidays and institutions which they viewed as remnants of the country’s colonial British past. One such holiday was Boxing Day which was changed to the Day of Goodwill, although many South Africans still refer to it as Boxing Day and the basis of the holiday has remained the same.

Due to its proximity to Christmas Day, the Day of Goodwill is usually seen as an extension of the festive holiday with many people using it as a time to rest and relax after their hectic Christmas celebrations. On the other hand, many individuals like to take advantage of the warmer weather and use the day off as a mini beach holiday while they’re on vacation.

While most shopping centres and venues close during this period of the year, various outlets remain open to offer special Boxing Day deals and various Boxing Day concerts and brunches have been held in the past, that said, most people would agree that the holiday is best celebrated in the good old-fashioned way whereby communities donate what they can to those in need.

In 2021, the Day of Goodwill will take place on a Sunday and thus, the public holiday will be observed on the following Monday (aka, the 27th of December). 

Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although our posts cite the constitution in many instances, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.

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