The Day of the Vow traces its origin as an annual religious holiday to The Battle of Blood River on 16 December 1838. The besieged Voortrekkers took a public vow (or covenant) together before the battle, led by either Andries Pretorius or Sarel Cilliers, depending on whose version is correct. In return for God’s help in obtaining victory, they promised to build a church and forever honour this day as a holy day of God. They vowed that they and their descendants would keep the day as a holy Sabbath. During the battle a group of about 470 Voortrekkers defeated a force of about 10 000 Zulu. Only three Voortrekkers were wounded, and some 3,000 Zulu warriors died in the battle.
Two of the earlier names given to the day stem from this prayer. Officially known as the Day of the Vow, the commemoration was renamed from the Day of the Covenant in 1982. Afrikaners colloquially referred to it as Dingaansdag (English: Dingane’s Day), a reference to the Zulu ruler of the defeated attackers.
The wording of the Vow is:
English: We stand here before the Holy God of heaven and earth, to make a vow to Him that, if He will protect us and give our enemy into our hand, we shall keep this day and date every year as a day of thanksgiving like a sabbath, and that we shall erect a house to His honour wherever it should please Him, and that we will also tell our children that they should share in that with us in memory for future generations. For the honour of His name will be glorified by giving Him the fame and honour for the victory.
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Afrikaans: Hier staan ons voor die Heilige God van hemel en aarde om ŉ gelofte aan Hom te doen, dat, as Hy ons sal beskerm en ons vyand in ons hand sal gee, ons die dag en datum elke jaar as ŉ dankdag soos ŉ Sabbat sal deurbring; en dat ons ŉ huis tot Sy eer sal oprig waar dit Hom behaag, en dat ons ook aan ons kinders sal sê dat hulle met ons daarin moet deel tot nagedagtenis ook vir die opkomende geslagte. Want die eer van Sy naam sal verheerlik word deur die roem en die eer van oorwinning aan Hom te gee.