Kenyan public holidays are dates that the Kenyan constitution recognizes as the official rest days from work.
Therefore, both private and public institutions remain closed during public holidays as per the Kenyan labour laws.
There are two types of holidays in Kenya, national and international holidays. By National public holidays, we mean those holidays that are observed in Kenya.
On the other hand, international public holidays are The World Days that are celebrated across the world.
Below is a complete list of Kenyan Public Holidays in order of the dates from January to December.
1. January 1st New Year Day (International)
New Year celebrations mark the beginning of the year and are celebrated across the world. Across the world, people associate this day with creating new year’s resolutions, though, many people never achieve them.
Kenyans celebrate this day mainly with family and friends. However, Kenyans are careful about spending during this holiday since they believe January is a tough month financially.
Many also celebrate the holiday close to their permanent resident since school re-open immediately after.
2. Good Friday (International Day)
Good Friday has no specific dates but in most cases, it occurs either late March or Early April. Christians mark Good Friday to mark the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Christians believe Jesus died on a Friday after crucified on the cross alongside two thieves. Good Friday is observed as national holiday despite concerning Christians only. Thus, both government and private institutions remain closed.
3. Easter Monday (International)
Christians believe Jesus resurrected on Sunday after his death on Good Friday. As a result, Christians celebrates the day on Sunday by attending churches services. Nature of service differs from one Christian denomination to another.
One may wonder then why is Monday a holiday? This is because when any holiday falls on Sunday, it is usually extended to Monday. Therefore, both public and private institutions remain closed.
4. May 1st: Labour day (International)
Labour day is a worldwide workers holiday thus it is celebrated across the world. The holiday is celebrated in one of the Major Kenyan stadiums.
Unlike other holidays where the president leads Kenya in celebration, he is conspicuously absent during labour day celebration platform. In Kenya, labour day is presided over by Labour Unions led by Francis Atwoli and cabinet secretary for labour.
The much-anticipated announcement Kenyans expect during this day is that of salary increment. Failure to it, the
5. June 1st: Madaraka Day (National)
Celebrated to mark when Kenya attained internal self-rule from British colonialist in June 1st 1963. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta became the first prime minister.
6. Idri Fitri : (Islam – No specific dates)
Idri Fitri is an Islamic celebration when Muslim celebrates the new moon after a month-long Ramadhani fasting and praying.
Though this is an Islamic holiday, the Kenyan government observes this day as a national holiday for all citizens from all religions just like the Christmas holiday.
7. October 10th – Moi Day (National)
Moi Day is a controversial holiday. Moi was the second president of Kenya. Most citizens believe Moi just fixed this day without any significant national symbolism associated with it.
As a result, the promulgation of 2010 Kenyan Constitution on August 2010 led to the abolishment of Moi Day as one of the national holidays.
Moi day celebration resumed in 2018 after High Court ruling on 8th November 2017. During the ruling, Justice George Odunga reinstated the holiday after declaring that scrapping Moi Day was unlawful.
On 08th October 2018, the Interior cabinet secretary Matiangi announced resuming of Moi Day. Thus, 10th October 2018 Moi Day celebration marked the official comeback of the holiday as one of the Kenyan national holidays.
8. October 2oth (Mashujaa Day) formerly Kenyatta Day (National)
Kenyans celebrate the Kenyan freedom fighters popularly known as the Mau Mau fighters who fought for independence.
Perhaps, this is the reason why the name was changed from Kenyatta Day, which meant it was like celebrating Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the first president, at the expense of all other freedom fighters.
As a result, Kenyatta Day was renamed Mashujaa Day after the promulgation of the new constitution in August 2010. Kenya celebrated the first Mashujaa Day on 20th October 2010.
9. Diwali Indian Holiday
Diwali holiday has no specified dates. However, in most cases, it is celebrated in the last week of October.
Diwali is a holiday for the Indian community. Unlike other holidays, Diwali holiday is not observed nationally in Kenya. Both Government and private institutions remain open.
However, the Government directive compels all institutions to allow only members of the Hindu faith to be off-duty for celebrations.
10. December 12th Jamhuri Day (National)
In simple terms, Jamhuri day is Kenya’s independence day. Jamhuri is a Swahili word that means “republic.” Kenyans observe Jamhuri Day every 12th Day of December to celebrate the day Kenya gained her self-independence from the British Colonialist.
Kenya became an independent republic on 12th December 1963. Note that Kenya was still under British rule despite attaining self internal rule on 1st June 1963, celebrated as the Madaraka day.
What did an independent republic mean? Kenya was in full control of its internal affairs. This led to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta becoming the first president from prime minister position. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga became the first vice president.
11. December 25th Christmas Day (International)
Christmas is a Christian holiday thus all Christian across the world celebrates this day in style. Christian faithful believe the day marks the birthday of Jesus Christ, their saviour.
It is worth noting this is the most popular holiday in Kenya. Most companies and businesses close for up to a week earlier to allow their employees to travel to their rural homes to celebrate Christmas Day.
Most Kenyans mark this day on rural homes with their families in what is commonly referred to as “get together” meetings. Therefore, Kenyans travel in masses on the eve of Christmas holiday. As a result, public vehicle owners increase fares up to over 100%.
Back in the villages, families and friends slaughter goats or chickens as well as cook the famous “Chapati” to celebrate the day. At the climax, friends and families gift one another as a form of appreciation of one another.
12. December 26th (Boxing Day)
Boxing Day is an international holiday celebrated on next day after Christmas. Thus, the world celebrates Boxing Day on 26th December every year.
The world associates the day with the opening of the Christmas holiday gifts presented by family and friends the previous day. Hence the name “boxing day.”
Most Kenyans celebrate boxing day feasting and drinking at their homes with family and friends. Others celebrate by visiting recreational facilities like parks, restaurants, and shopping malls among others.