Zulu Gift Giving 101: Traditions and Etiquette


Zulu is a region located in the southern parts of Africa. It is of rich culture which is centered basically on offering sacrifices to their ancestors. People exchange gifts during important occasions like birth, puberty, and marriage. Gift giving has no specific rule in Zulu the because gifts are not always wrapped and offered as they are. Intentions are expressed through their handcrafted beadworks and every gift is given and accepted as a form of respect and honor.

Ideal Gifts for Zulu People

  • Beadwork
  • Handmade mats
  • Livestock
  • Barley beer

Beads and Their Meanings

The Zulus’ beadwork is a representation of their culture that is why it is the most common gift given on any occasion. The art of beadwork also symbolizes the feelings of the giver towards the receiver. This can be expressed through the colors of the beads for every color contains special messages.

  • White: Love
  • Black: Mourning, loneliness & disappointment
  • Pink: Poverty
  • Green: Lovesickness or jealousy
  • Blue: Loyalty
  • Red: Tears and desire
  • Yellow: Wealth
  • Striped beads: Doubt

Zulu Gift Giving Occasions

  • Birthday – modern Zulus celebrates their birthdays but the traditional ones give more importance to the coming of age event.
  • Umhlonyane – this is a celebration when a girl has come of age. Traditionally the girl will stay with her mother for a week and a goat is slaughtered as a sacrificial gift. Nowadays, a girl’s first menstruation is still a big event and is celebrated with a feast and lots of gift giving.
  • Engagement – Brides-to-be will make two sets of bead necklaces in matching colors – one for herself and one for her groom-to-be. Their matching color-coded necklaces and bracelets will let everyone know that they are a couple..
  • Dowry – dowries are mainly dictated by the father of the bride who demands top payment for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Dowries are usually in the form of livestock but more modern Zulus give cash as dowries.
  • Pre Wedding Ceremony – before the actual wedding ceremony, the bride and her family will go to the groom’s house with a box full of her personal belongings. This box symbolizes her separation from her own family as she moves in to her new family. During the ceremony, the bride gives the groom’s parents handmade mats and blankets. The groom in turn will give cattle to the bride’s family as a form of insurance in case he dies or rejects her.
  • Weddings – due to the influence of Christianity, Zulus have two wedding ceremonies – the traditional one and the Christian one which they call “white wedding”. Common gifts for this occasion are livestock, jewelry, and things for the couple’s home.
  • Shaka Zulu – this is a cultural heritage day which occurs every 24th of September. A cow is slaughtered as a sacrificial gift to the ancestral founders of the Zulu kingdom.
  • Christmas – Christmas was introduced to the Zulus by Christian missionaries and both the converted and the unconverted Zulus celebrate this event with gift giving.



About the Author

Kit K

Kit Kalagayan is a content writer for many blogs and websites. He runs Gift Canyon and does most of the content and administrative work.



2 thoughts on “Zulu Gift Giving 101: Traditions and Etiquette

  • June 13, 2016 at 10:13 am
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    is Zulu really a country? i thought it was a region in south Africa occupied by the Zulu people?

    Reply
    • June 15, 2016 at 2:16 am
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      Hmm, edited. Thanks. Yea, I meant region, when I wrote that.

      Reply

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