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Easter

Easter 2018 and 2019

Easter has long been celebrated in South Africa as a distinctively Christian holiday.

YearDateDayHoliday
201830 MarFriGood Friday
2 AprMonFamily Day
201919 AprFriGood Friday
22 AprMonFamily Day
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However, despite three-quarters or more of South Africa’s 55 million people identifying themselves as Christian, secularisation and commercialisation of the holiday has begun to set in.

As in most other countries where Easter is celebrated, it falls in late March to mid-April, it commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it involves Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs. In South Africa, there are also frequently Easter parades, egg hunts, egg-decorating workshops, and grand Easter feasts with native dishes. Local organisations will hold Easter events for kids, and families will spend much of the day out and about, while relaxing at home the rest of the time.

At churches of all denominations, there will often be 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, though there are “breaks” and dinners involved as well. Easter Monday has long been a day to relax and recover from the hustle and bustle of Easter Day, but in 1995, it was renamed by the government “Family Day” to encourage people of all belief systems to participate in festivities held on the day after Easter.

South Africa does have a good deal of special Easter time dishes, including hot cross buns and pickled fish. Both of these dishes are especially common in the area around Capetown. Hot cross buns derive from a British Easter tradition brought over by early Cape Province settlers. The pickled fish, however, are a Muslim Malay tradition. The Dutch, who originally settled Capetown, brought Malay and Indian slaves who introduced the dish, which is very spicy and has a sweet and sour flavouring. Why did a Muslim food become popular on Easter? The factors that led to this include: the abundance of fish off Capetown, the ability of a single batch of pickled fish to stay good throughout Easter Weekend, and the Catholic tradition of eating fish but not red meat at this time of year.

Four ideas of what to do in South Africa around Easter time, two for Capetown and two for Johannesburg, are as follows:

  • In Capetown, on the Saturday before Easter, you can enrol your kids in the Golden Easter Egg Hunt at the Kenilworth Racecourse. Toddlers, ages three to six, and “juniors,” aged seven through 11, have separate hunts. There will also be face painting, inflatable castles to jump in, and other fun activities.
  • Also in Cape Town, your kids may wish to find their way through the Lindt Gold Bunny Maze at the V and A Waterfront. They can search out hidden chocolates, do sand art, face painting, papier mache crafts, or spend time at the petting zoo.
  • In Johannesburg, at the Killarney Mall, you may wish to treat your kids to the locally famous “Easter Village.” There will be candy to find, a visit from the “real” Easter bunny, and plenty of other fun events. The adults can probably squeeze in a little shopping time as well.
  • One of the best Easter events in “Joburg” is the Rand Show, which has fun events for the whole family. It is one of the largest Easter shows in the world and attracts hundreds of thousands to its kids’ activities, Food Theatre, “Man Cave,” science and tech lab, helicopter rides, and more.

There will be much highway traffic in South Africa just after Easter Weekend, so it is wise to plan your transportation well in advance. The season will also be busy at the airport, so you should book flights in and out well ahead of time as well.