You can only Make a Difference by being Different! – Rick Warren

This Heritage Day we Celebrate our diversity as a Rainbow Nation.

Every year, South Africa celebrates a special public holiday named Heritage day on the 24th of September. A country teeming with diversity, rich cultures and 11 official languages, we embrace Heritage Day as a way of sharing with one another our traditions and cultures that make up our unique nation. Former South African President, Nelson Mandela shared, “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation”. Nelson believed in the value of being different. That every person, regardless of, and because of their heritage, had the power to effect positive change that would contribute towards building our great nation.

South Africa being so culturally diverse is not only made up of South Africans. Many expats have chosen to make South Africa their home. Here at EcoTraining we have students originating from all corners of the globe. They have joined our courses to reconnect with nature and for many, to join the plight towards conservation. Despite their differences in origins and heritage, they all share a common tenacity and love towards nature. They have come together as strangers and they will leave as friends…

In the spirit of Heritage Day, we asked our international and local students what their heritage was like in their own countries and this is what they shared with us.

Malin Sjonell

Malin Sjönell from Sweden shares,

“In Sweden we have a holiday called Midsummer which always falls on the last Friday of June. During this day most people are off from work or just working half-day. This holiday was created to simply celebrate summer since summer in Sweden isn’t very long or warm.

It is a day spent enjoying food with family and friends, eating all the classic summer foods such as potato, herring, meatballs, mini sausages, beetroot salad, smoked salmon, a dish called Jansson’s frestelse (translation: Jansson’s Temptation). This is a traditional Swedish dish which is a casserole made of potatoes, pickled sprats, onions, bread crumbs and cream. Usually, everyone has their own idea of what goes on the table and in Sweden it’s typically the same as a dinner table over Christmas.

As a tradition, the girls make a flower crown out of wildflowers and wear it all day and night. Nowadays everyone can do it, not just girls. At night before bed, you’re supposed to have 7 different types of flowers picked from 7 different parts of nature.

Personally, I think there is a curse over this specific day since it’s almost always raining on that exact day. All other days are usually sunny, but not the Midsummer Day. All Swedes are prepared for unpleasant weather on this day, but we keep celebrating summer no matter what the weather looks like.”

Lilu Sunneschin from Switzerland shares,

Lilu Sunnechin

There’s an annual tradition in the Swiss Alps during summer when the cattle farmers ascend the Alps with their cattle and families. This is called ‘Alpaufzug’ to go up ‘alpabzug’ when you come down – translates to Ascending the Alps.

Once the cattle have eaten all the grass in the Valleys, the farmers walk their cows up the mountains so that their cattle can eat fresh Alpine grass.

These families have small cottages on the mountainsides where they live with their cattle until all that grass is eaten. The cows are celebrated and dressed up in beautiful garlands of flowers and bells around their necks. The farmers make fresh cheese from the dairy.

With the onset of autumn, the farmers and their families will then go back down the mountain to their valley homes for the winter. Then, there is a massive festival. The cattle, again decorated with flowers, will compete for the most beautiful cow.

A winner is announced and the families celebrate with food and drink.”

Sarah Cordell from Australia shares,

Sarah Cordell

“Australia Day is a longstanding holiday that in more recent times been cast with a lot of controversies. This day marks the day the ships hit the shores initiating colonisation – something the Aborigines don’t wish to celebrate. While there is talk of changing the date, the celebration will remain for the time being and it is a day spent being proud and thankful for being an Australian.

This day is normally filled with BBQs and for youth culture, listening to the ‘hottest – 100’, the largest democratic music voting forum in the world. Everyone votes for their favourite songs throughout the year and the top 100 are played out on Australia Day.”

Peter van den Brouck from Belgium shares,

“Belgium is a country the size of a shoebox, comprising of three official language regions, each with their own governments and particular cultures. Historically, Belgium has been ruled by many different countries in the distant and not so distant past.

It comes to no surprise that there is no such thing as a ‘typical Belgian’. However, there are certain things 

that do unite the country such as our love for good beer crosses the language barriers as well as our love for good food.

High-quality chocolate factories steering the world market and easily accessible ‘French fries’ houses’ or ‘frietkot’, as we like to call them. We enjoy these French fries with an accompaniment of ‘stoofvlees’ (a kind of beef stew with beer, of course).

Sunday mornings we often wake up early to go to the bakery and get freshly baked buns to make ourselves a royal breakfast. At 4 pm tea and coffee is ready to get us through the rest of the afternoon accompanied by some tasty biscuits or pie. Afterwards, we go cycling which is very popular in Belgium, to burn all those calories!”

Peter van den Brouck

Izaan du Toit from South Africa shares,

“As an Afrikaans South African we celebrate Heritage Day by another name called “National Braai Day”. It is a day spent outdoors, having a barbeque (Braai) with family and friends and having a really good time or ‘kuir’ as we refer to it. A truly South African culture and something that has never changed is our love for good food and social gathering for any occasion.

On Heritage day in my household, I enjoy fun stories from my Grandparents telling me stories about how things were done on the farm in the olden days. We share our love for this country South Africa and without the love that we have for this country and its people, we wouldn’t have had such an amazing diverse heritage.”

Izaan du Toit

Every person you meet comes from a fascinating backdrop of traditions and culture. Sure, we celebrate with good food and special customs but it stems deeper than that. Metaphorically speaking, it is a story about our roots. The weather and life’s choices will determine how we grow. Our branches will shape our worldview. At the end of the day, we share one earth. This Heritage Day, embrace everyone’s culture and share yours. Be curious and compassionate. From EcoTraining, we wish you a wonderful Heritage Day.

Happy Birthday to our Managing Director and inspiring leader, Anton Lategan.