Public holidays are days that all Kenyans look forward to every year. Apart from celebrating the purpose of the said holidays, most people find it as an opportunity to take a break from their regular jobs and/or school work and spend time with their friends.
All public holidays are published on the Kenya Gazette, an official publication of the Kenyan government. The publication posts notices of new legislation, notices required to be published by law or policy, and announcements for general public information.
Any day can be declared to be a public holiday by notice in the Gazette to either add days in the Public Holidays Act or act in substitution of any gazetted holiday.
Until the government announces a new holiday, here is the list of public holidays recognized in the Kenya Gazette:
January 1st – New Year
The first day of the Gregorian calendar is a holiday celebrated in all countries with the exception of Israel. Kenyans usually usher the new year with friends and family and wait for the clock to hit midnight.
10 April-13th April – Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday
This Christian holiday commemorates the crucifixion, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ. The dates of the Easter holidays vary from one year to the next because of the differences between how Western Christianity calculates the dates from Eastern Christianity. But that is for another day.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday are usually observed as public holidays across the world. Easter Monday, however, has no important significance as compared to the other two which leaves one to wonder why we observe it as a holiday.
1st May – Labour Day
Commonly known as International Workers Day, this public holiday is recognized worldwide to appreciate the struggle of working individuals. For labour workers, it is the day worker unions bring them together and invite the president in the hopes that their wages might be increased.
If the pay isn’t addressed, their health and safety and rights will be the alternate talking points during the celebration.
1st June – Madaraka Day
This day commemorates the day Kenya attained self-internal rule in 1963. Before then, Kenya was a British protectorate in 1895 and a British crown colony in 1920. Jomo Kenyatta became the first prime minister.
Madaraka day is one of the three national holidays created in the 2010 Kenyan constitution.
24 May – Eid ul Fitr
The Festival of Breaking the Fast is a Muslim holiday celebrated worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan fasting. While we may have indicated that the date for the holiday is May 24th, it may be subject to change depending on the sighting of the new moon by religious authorities.
One interesting thing to note about the holiday is that it will always come 11 days earlier every year as compared to the previous year. This is because the Islamic calendar is lunar and the Gregorian calendar is solar. That means there will be a time in the near future that the holiday will be celebrated in January.
October 10th – Huduma Day
Formerly known as Moi Day, this new holiday will be commemorated as a day of service and volunteerism. While Kenyans are yet to see what the holiday is all about, they will be happy to know that the date will continue to be a public holiday.
October 10th – Mashujaa Day
This holiday aims at honouring the forefathers who fought for the country to get independence from British colonialists. It was previously known as Kenyatta Day which was meant to honour the first president of the Republic of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
December 12th – Jamhuri Day
The last holiday that is recognized in the 2010 Kenyan constitution which commemorates the official date of Kenya’s Independence on 12th December 1964. The term Jamhuri is a Swahili word that means republic.
December 25th – Christmas Day
This international holiday is commemorated by Christians all over the world on the birth of Jesus Christ. In Kenya, it is considered that time of the year to spend with their families and celebrate the birth of God’s son and sing Christmas carols.
December 26th – Utamaduni Day
The holiday is originally known as Boxing Day when people open their gifts given to them on Christmas Day. Things, however, are different in Kenya as the Building Bridges Initiative report proposed the day to be changed to Utamaduni Day. This day will be set aside to celebrate the country’s rich cultural diversity and heritage.