Some History of New Year
In South Africa, there is an idea or concept known as the “Second New Year” and this has some historical background behind the celebration. Slavery was common during the 17th century and slaves were not granted any days off work. They were granted a day off once a year, which would be the first day after New Year’s Day on January 2.
The slaves used this opportunity to visit friends from one house to another, dress up in festive attire and to celebrate their own “New Year”. They utilized the second day of the New Year as a way to protest against their oppressed lifestyle by engaging in cheerful singing, dancing, and parading through the streets.
The second day of New Year was an event that grew in later years, in which brass bands were incorporated and people’s outfits became more colorful. The bands and outfits were significant to specific groups and people started to perform and compete against each other as they marched throughout the streets of Cape Town. Today’s festivities occur on New Year’s Day with more than 13,000 painted faces belonging to people dressed in colorful outfits with props, umbrellas, whistles, and other items make noise. This occasion turns Cape Town’s streets into a vibrant rush of beats and lively lyrics.
How is New Year Celebrated in South Africa?
Many New Year celebrations are enjoyed outdoors in South Africa because of the warm summer weather that many parts of the southern hemisphere experience during that time of the year. New Year’s Day is a popular celebration so it is common for festivities to last for up to two days.
Friends and family customarily come together on December 31 and as the old year ends, the New Year is announced and greeted with jubilation, euphoria, and elation. Church bell chimes at the stroke of midnight to officially declare the start of New Year. Upon hearing the bells, everyone cheers and celebrate the New Year with excitement and energy.
It is common to welcome the New Year with cracker explosions and, in some instances, breathtaking firework displays. The New Year is also celebrated in the company of up to 80,000 spectators at the foot of Table Mountain, a landmark that overlooks Cape Town.
The yearly event of Cape Town Minstrel Carnival that is organized on New Year’s Eve is said to be a spectacular event of the whole country. Its history dates back to the nineteenth century. This carnival has a slave culture history. In the past it was custom or tradition for slaves to be given holidays for New Year’s Day to celebrate in their own way, thus prompting a New Year celebration in a modern way. And Cape Town is a famous place for these modern New Year festivities.
Arrangements for the Cape Carnival begin well ahead of time, with minstrel troupes rehearsing songs, dance steps and parades for a considerable length of time. There are a lot of costume parades in which there are usually bold silk fabric, ties, umbrellas and hats.
Throughout the years, these minstrels, with their rich mix of music and exhibition, were assembled into ‘klopse’, or clubs. Where a large crowd would cheer for them, because of this they have started a custom of parading through the city to a nearby stadium where the annual competition is held.
Public transport will still run on January 1 but it will be busy, and some businesses will be open at least part of the day. But government and financial institutions will close down, so tourists should plan ahead accordingly.
Many South Africans also attend New Year’s Eve church services where they go to hear God’s Word for the coming Year. They also thank God for bringing them to the end of another Year. In some large congregations, there are fireworks displays done outside when the New Year rolls in.