Public holidays are special days that commemorate significant events in a country’s history, culture, or religion.
They are usually marked by celebrations, ceremonies, or rituals that reflect the values and identity of the nation.
In Kenya, a country in East Africa, there are about twelve public holidays that are recognized by the government and observed by the citizens.
These holidays range from religious festivals, such as Eid al-Fitr and Easter, to national occasions, such as Jamhuri Day and Mashujaa Day.
In this article, we will explore the meaning, origin, and traditions of some of the most important public holidays in Kenya, and how they contribute to the diversity and unity of this vibrant country.
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Gazetted public holidays in Kenya
Many Kenyans eagerly await public holidays because they mean time off from work and school.
When a holiday falls on a Friday or Monday, it makes the weekend longer, allowing people to enjoy activities away from work or school.
It’s essential for everyone to be aware of the public holidays in Kenya.
Below is a table showing all the gazetted public holidays in Kenya:
|New Year’s Day
|Marks the beginning of a new year
|Commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ
|Symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ
|Continues the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection
|Eid al Fitr
|Marks the end of Ramadhan
|Celebrates the achievements of workers
|This signifies the day Kenya gained self-rule
|Eid Ul Adha
|Commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice
|Encourages service to others
|Celebrates Kenyan heroes
|Marks Kenya’s attainment of independence
|Celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ
|Utamaduni Day (Boxing Day)
|Celebrates Kenyan cultures
Public holidays in Kenya and their meanings
|An international celebration marking the beginning of a new year.
|A significant Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary.
|Known as Pascha, it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on a Sunday, extending the break to Monday.
|Eid al Fitr
|An Islamic holiday marking the end of Ramadhan and the start of Shawwal, with communal prayers and charity.
|An international holiday celebrating workers’ achievements, rooted in the labor union movement.
|Celebrates the day Kenya attained self-rule and full control over its internal affairs.
|Eid Ul Adha
|Known as the Feast of Sacrifice, it commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son.
|Replaced Moi Day, encouraging acts of service to others.
|Honours Kenyan heroes who fought for independence.
|Commemorates Kenya’s attainment of independence on 12th December 1964.
|An international celebration marking the birth of Jesus Christ.
|Utamaduni/ Boxing Day
|Formerly Boxing Day, now Utamaduni Day, appreciating the cultures of various Kenyan communities.
How do Kenyans celebrate their national holidays?
Kenyans celebrate their national holidays in various ways, depending on the occasion, the region, and the culture.
Here are some of the common features of these celebrations are:
- Parades and ceremonies: Many national holidays, such as Jamhuri Day, Mashujaa Day, and Huduma Day, are marked by official events that showcase the country’s history, achievements, and diversity. These events often include speeches by leaders, military displays, cultural performances, and awards. The main event is usually held in Nairobi, the capital city, and broadcasted nationwide, while other regions and counties also hold their own events.
- Religious services: Some national holidays, such as Easter, Eid al-Fitr, and Christmas, are based on religious festivals that celebrate the faith and beliefs of different communities. These holidays are usually observed by attending prayers, services, or masses at churches, mosques, or temples, and following the rituals and traditions of the respective faiths. For example, Christians may fast during Lent, Muslims may fast during Ramadan, and Hindus may light lamps during Diwali.
- Family and community gatherings: Most national holidays are also occasions for spending time with family and friends, sharing meals, exchanging gifts, and having fun. Many people travel to their ancestral homes or visit their relatives in different parts of the country, especially during the long holidays in December. Some communities also organize cultural festivals, sports tournaments, concerts, or fundraisers to celebrate their heritage and unity.
Public Holidays in Kenya FAQs
How many public holidays are in Kenya?
There are 12 gazetted public holidays in Kenya.
Which country has the most public holidays in Africa?
In Africa, Egypt is the country with the highest number of public holidays. Egypt has 22 public holidays.
Is Huduma Day a public holiday?
Yes! Huduma Day is a special day in Kenya that happens every 10th October. It encourages people to do helpful things for others. Public holidays in Kenya are important because they connect to the country’s beliefs, history, and religions. Each holiday has its own special meaning. For many, these days are great chances to get things done outside of work and school.
What happens if a holiday falls on Sunday in Kenya?
In Kenya holidays falling on Sunday are observed the following Monday.