But at scores of functions across the country, there were also increased calls for people to continue such activities throughout the year and not just on one day.
Politicians and community leaders highlighted how Mandela had spent 67 years of his life fighting every single day for equality and upliftment of all citizens.
At his hometown of Qunu, Mandela enjoyed a quiet birthday with his family as reporters who had been camped outside the gates of the home to which he has retired were chased away by security officers.
People of all communities chipped in to repair and paint classrooms, even inspiring passers by and radio listeners of stations that broadcast from some of the venues to swell the ranks to achieve even more.
Some municipalities set about building basic housing in record time for the indigent, while others arranged soup kitchens and blankets for the destitute in the freezing winter weather.
Cricketer Justin Kemp joined his Cape Cobras teammates to make sandwiches for hungry pupils at schools, while singers entertained those undertaking the work.
Old age homes, clinics and hospitals also received similar treatment from citizens.