Incwala Day in Eswatini in 2024

Incwala Day in Eswatini in 2024
Incwala Festival
  How long until Incwala Day?
Incwala Day
  Dates of Incwala Day in Eswatini
2026 Eswatini Tue, Jan 6 National Holiday
2024 Eswatini Wed, Dec 18 National Holiday
2023 Eswatini Thu, Dec 28 National Holiday
2022 Eswatini Sun, Dec 11 National Holiday
2021 Jan 2, Dec 22
EswatiniWed, Dec 22National Holiday
EswatiniSat, Jan 2National Holiday

This festival celebrates the beginning of the harvest season and dates are based on ancestral astrology

When is Incwala Day?

Incwala Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland). The date is based on ancestral astrology. 

The Eswatini National Trust Commission gives the date as the fourth day after the full moon nearest the longest day, December 21st. This unique date rule means the festival can take place in December or January.

History of Incwala Day

This landlocked country in southern Africa can boast two of the most colourful tribal and historical festivals on the continent; Incwala and Umhlanga, the reed dance festival. In the latter, the focus is on the young women of the kingdom. In Incwala, it is the king himself who takes centre stage.

Incwala is Eswatini’s most important cultural event and celebrates the start of the harvest season.

In the run-up to the festival, men journey to the coast of Mozambique to gather water.

It is only after the king eats the first fruit that the people can partake of the harvest. This is why the festival is sometimes called the 'First Fruits Festival', but that event takes place on the fourth day and the festival extends over six days, full of rituals and traditions developed over many centuries:

Day 1: Fetching the Lusekwane (sickle bush)

Unmarried male youths set off from the Queen Mother's village and march 50 kilometres to cut branches of the "lusekwane" under the light of the full moon.

Day 2: Dropping the Lusekwane

The boys place their "lusekwane" branches in the national cattle byre/kraal. The elders weave these branches in between the poles of the "inhlambelo" - the king's private sanctuary.

Day 3

In the morning, young boys cut branches of the "black imbondvo" (red bushwillow) and these are added to the "inhlambelo". In the afternoon, the king is receives traditional medicines in his sanctuary.

Day 4: Eating the First Fruits and Throwing the Gourd

The main day and the public holiday: all the key players perform in a spectacular pageant inside the cattle byre; the king and regiments appear in full war-dress.

Day 5: Day of Abstinence

After the spectacle, excitement and noise of the main day, today is set aside to gather breath and reflect upon the year. During the daylight hours, there is no sexual contact, touching water, wearing decorations, sitting on chairs/mats, shaking hands, scratching, singing or dancing.

Day 6: Day of the Log

The regiments march to a forest and return with firewood. The elders prepare a great fire in the centre of the cattle byre. On it, certain ritual objects are burnt, signifying the end of the old year, while the key players dance and sing inside the byre. The king remains in seclusion until the next full moon, when the "lusekwane" branches are removed and burnt.

Tourists interested in the event are welcome to attend and the Eswatini Tourist site gives some helpful do's and don'ts of the Incwala Festival:

  • Females should wear skirts or sarongs
  • Men should not wear hats or any headgear that is not traditional
  • Shoes are worn at the ceremony but not on the dance arena
  • Do take pictures at the ceremony but not of the Inhlambelo (king’s private sanctuary)
  • Do sing, dance, encourage and uphold unity amongst Swazis
  • Do inform friends and tourists of prohibitions during Incwala.

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