I celebrated Thanksgiving Western-style with Americans and Brits last week, but also got a taste of what “Thanksgiving” means in my village. When I heard my mom talk about the “Thanksgiving” event that was going to happen at church, I had to pick-and-pry to find out what it really meant. “But that’s an American holiday that’s about American history,” I told her. Alas, I attended church to participate in the celebration — one step closer to understanding religion and culture in my village.
At the end of every year, all the community members in my village gather at the church for a “Thanksgiving” mass — to thank God for the past year. Zulu: siyabonga. English: we thank you.
Each family then contributes a sum of money that is counted all together and announced at the end of the church service. The donated money will be used for next year’s church budget and activities. The church raised ~R70,000! Thanksgiving mass is hosted at church either at the end of November or December. This year the celebration was coincidentally the weekend after American Thanksgiving; perfect timing!
Just like every church service, there was a lot of dancing, singing — especially the song that features “siyabonga” (listen to the video to see if you can hear it). I’m planning on writing a longer post on the importance of religion in my community, but I’m taking my sweet, sweet time — there’s much to discuss.
Enjoy your first glimpse at this beautifully rhythmic Zulu culture! Happy South African Thanksgiving!