About New Year's Day (1 January 2020)

South Africans love a good ‘jol’ (the informal Afrikaans term for a party), and New Year’s Day invariably presents the perfect opportunity to let loose and celebrate. 1 January is a public holiday in South Africa, giving everyone the chance to relax and have a good time. This does not generally affect public transport systems, which are actually busier than usual, but efficient.

Because it occurs during the balmy African summer, New Year’s Day is often enjoyed outdoors. The many beaches of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape are usually buzzing with locals and visitors who want to start the year off with a dip in the salty water and a day spent with friends and family on the sand. Expect packed parking lots and chock-a-block restaurants along the coast.

Of course, 31 December is often marked by huge parties and fireworks displays, and the various cities and towns may still be in the throes of celebration come New Year’s Day.

In true South African style, many friends and families opt to spend New Year’s Day braaing (barbecuing) in the gardens, parks and beaches of the country (where permitted), taking advantage of the warm, sunny summers of the country.

Interestingly, thanks to a dappled history, South Africa enjoys a Second New Year in many of the big cities. In times past, the slaves of the 17th century Western Cape were not permitted any holidays or days off, except for the day after New Year’s. Today, 2 January continues to be a day of celebration amongst the communities that emerged from the slave culture.

The Kaapse Klopse (or Cape Mintstrel Carnival) is a carnival that fills the streets of Cape Town. Friends and, in fact, entire neighbourhoods dress in colourful clothing as they sing, dance, play instruments, and parade through the streets. Competitions are held, and the minstrels are cheered on by hordes of onlookers, creating a really fun vibe. This is a delightful experience for locals and visitors alike, and a fantastic way to start the New Year.

Getaways over public holidays and during nationwide events are in high demand, so accommodation often books up quickly for these periods, and often long in advance. Please be sure to secure your accommodation well in advance if you are travelling when one of these takes place.

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