The Reed Dance (or Umhlanga) takes place during the end of August or in early September every year. The occasion attracts attracts young maidens from throughout Swaziland. Most of those who participate in the event itself are teenagers, although some of the girls are even younger. As many as 20.000 maidens gather reeds. The day of the Reed Dance Ceremony begins with common bathing and grooming of all the maidens.
The girls wear colourful clothes to the ceremony, but are bare-breasted. The royal princesses in addition to this wear red feathers in their hair and lead the maidens in the performance for the King and Queen Mother.
The monarchy uses traditional events in general and the Reed Dance in particular, as a cultural unifier and to “prove” that his people are behind him. There are other reasons for participating in the Reed Dance, however, including that the chiefs and the King will punish any non-participant by fining any family whose daughter does not contribute two cows or evict them from their home and land.