Celebrating Easter in South Africa is something much different than you might think!
As in many countries outside America, the Easter Weekend in South Africa is a huge 4-day public holiday commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. At churches of all denominations, it begins on Good Friday followed by prayer services and other special events for a full week starting on Easter Sunday. On Easter Sunday itself, the services sometimes last all day long with “breaks” for lunches and dinners.
Easter Monday has long been a day to relax and recover from the bustle of Easter Day. In 1995 it was renamed by the government as “Family Day” to encourage everyone to participate in family festivities held on the day after Easter.
Of course, we too have the traditional Easter parades, egg hunts, and egg-decorating, but very important to South Africans are the grand Easter feasts with native dishes!
On the top of the list of these specialties are traditional hot cross buns! Derived from a British Easter tradition brought over by early Cape Province settlers, tasty hot cross buns have long been a symbol of Good Friday.
And Easter weekend without pickled fish is almost unthinkable in Cape Town! This Muslim Malay tradition is made with snoek or yellowtail, (white fish common to the Cape), smothered with loads of onions and tangy spices. The Dutch, who originally settled Cape Town, brought Malay and Indian slaves with them who introduced this dish that is now considered a ‘specialty of the Cape’!
You may ask why did a Muslim plate become so popular on Easter? You only have to look around you to understand the abundance of fish off Cape Town. This combined with the ability of a making a single batch of pickled fish that stays good throughout the entire Easter Weekend and the Catholic tradition of eating fish instead of red meat this time of year made it a ‘must have’ for the holiday!
So whatever your traditions are for this Easter holiday, please burn a candle representing everlasting light, give thanks for family & friends, and enjoy this special weekend.