Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day of the Whatsit

So today’s a public holiday, or supposed to be, and it’s a holiday with an interesting history.

When I was a child, we called it 'Dingaan’s Day' – 'Dingdong’s Day' to the irreverent. It commemorated the Battle of Blood River, which consisted of the impis (Zulu warriors) storming down on the lager (circle of wagons, not beer) of the trekkers (like American pioneers, only more Dutch-ish) and getting shot.

The Zulu warriors were told by their sangomas (like shamans, only Zulu) that they would be bullet proof, but it didn’t work, and the bullets got them anyway.

Their faith probably wasn’t strong enough – not even approaching mustard seed size, which allows for geographical alterations to the location of mountains (as we all know). Relocating bullets must be simple by comparison.

Suffice to say, they didn’t get it right, or they redirected the bullets in the wrong direction and the river ran red with blood (hence ‘Battle of Blood River’).

Anyway, it used to be a huge shindig in South Africa in the old days, and involved various expressions and celebrations of white supremacy like parades, barbeques and langarm dancing. For me, it was just a day off school.

At some point, it was decided to change the name to ‘Day of the Vow’ since the Voortrekkers had sworn to God that if they won the battle, they would forever commemorate the day. It must be handy to have God on one’s side, although accounts of the battle fail to mention the deployment of thunderbolts.

The name change didn’t alter the nature of the celebrations one bit, but it did sound a bit more polite, although only marginally so.

Then we had a bit of liberation, and Afrikaaner nationalists (something like rednecks) were in a state of near revolt (as opposed to being revolting, although in some cases it’s a near thing) because they thought Nelson Mandela would take away their ‘religious holiday’.

Either Nelson, being Xhosa, wasn’t too fussed about a holiday commemorating a massacre of Zulus, or else he was just being magnanimous, or both, but the name got changed to ‘Day of Reconciliation’.

This is a bit of a wheeze, because reconciliation is fairly new and hasn’t anything to do with the 16th of December. Quite the contrary, except in that Mandela reconciled himself to keeping it as a holiday and the nationalists reconciled themselves to yet another name change.

So that’s today. I’m working. I am reconciled to it. Today's pic: something black and white.


  1. Keeping the holiday and changing the name has worked throughout history. We did that to Christmas. Nice black/white pic, still a road to travel I suppose. Happy Reconciliation Day!

  2. We had an ice storm over night. I'm home today- reconciled to it.
    A fascinating story! I smiled throughout and loved your last paragraph immensely. (I loved all the paragraphs immensely as a matter of fact.)
    Funny that I spent much of last night in bed thinking about the topic of "holiday".
    You are always intriguing dear. Beautiful photo.

  3. That photo is scary as hell !

  4. You know what looks good in B&W? Bunny.

  5. "Day of Reconciliation" is a strange name for a celebration of a bloody day. Dingdong Day seems more appropriate.

  6. Very interesting story and I love how you tell it. Amazing what we celebrate isn't it?

  7. Dingdong sounds good to me, too. Interesting story and you tell it so well. Something black and white...that's pretty good.

  8. Is the Dingdong you called the Holy Day related at all to the Irish Dingdong? As in "the battle was a right royal dingdong, we did the buggers like a dinner.."? Just wonderin'..

  9. Clipped wings: That's true. My Danish colleague is full of news about midwinter solstice celebrations.

    PAMO: Glad you enjoyed my little story about the 'Day of the Wow'. Had a long weekend afterwards. Filled with storms but quite warm as long as you stayed out the wind and actual rain!

    Heff: So happy to terrify you..

    Grant: Nice link. Not all of the commuters looked like dinkum bunny, but certainly some of them did. Good pics

    HW: Yes, its ironic, but we're ding-dongs enough to swallow it.

    CW: Every now and then I get all South African. :)

    Aoteawriter: Your wonderings are darned amusing and also jolly funny. Please keep sharing them.

  10. Darned interesting - shows just how ruthless and ridiculous people can be. It is a reflection of the history of humanity, I think - and that is a shame. We are all dingdongs.