There are approximately twelve nationally recognized Public holidays celebrated in the Republic of Kenya, a country in East Africa. List of Official Public Holidays in Kenya
What is the Kenya Gazette?
The Kenya Gazette is an official publication of the government of the Republic of Kenya.
The Kenya Gazette publishes the following:
1. Notices of new legislation
2. Notices required to be published by law or policy
The publication takes place every week, usually on Friday, with occasional releases of special or supplementary editions within the week.
List of Gazetted Public Holidays in Kenya
New Year (January 1st)
January 1: The first day of the civil year in the Gregorian calendar used by most countries. Contrary to common belief in the west, the civil New Year of January 1 is not an Orthodox Christian religious holiday. The Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar makes no provision for the observance of a New Year.
Good Friday (March or April)
Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. Even though the dates for the holiday vary from one year to year, this is considered a public holiday in Kenya.
Easter Sunday (March or April)
Easter is a “movable feast” and does not have a fixed date. However, it is always held on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. Over a 500-year period (from 1600 to 2099 AD), it just so happens that Easter will have most often been celebrated on either March 31 or April 16.
The holiday celebrates the resurrection of Christ and marks the end of Lent/Holy Week for Christians. It is celebrated on a Sunday and overflows to Monday which is a public holiday in Kenya. The Easter Sunday date is the first Sunday on or after an ecclesiastical full moon.
Labour Day (May 1st)
International Workers‘ Day, also known as Labour Day in most countries and often referred to as May Day, is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement and occurs every year on May Day (1 May).
In Kenya, Labour Day is celebrated on May 1 but the date varies in the different countries. On this day, most Kenyans do not go to work but instead, attend a public event which is normally brought together by the Worker’s union.
Most working Kenyans usually have a lot expectation from the government on this day. Most of the Labour Day, which are usually held at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, usually see the President of Kenya or the Chairman of the worker’s union give a speech addressing the workers.
This day signifies issues surrounding the working individual. There are three things that are usually addressed during this day.
1. Salary increment- All working individuals should have a salary increment subject to the high cost of living and the economic situation.
2. Health and safety of workers- Every employer in Kenya should ensure that their employees work in a conducive environment that meet the health standards as outlined in the constitution.
3. Workers constitutional rights- On this day, all workers as supposed to receive the utmost attention and respect. They should also get the necessary recognition for the work they do towards the development of the country.
Madaraka Day (June 1st)
Madaraka Day (“Internal self-rule” or Self-Governance Day) is a national holiday celebrated every 1 June of every year in the Republic of Kenya. It commemorates the day in 1963 that Kenya attained internal self-rule after being a British colony since 1920.
The first colonialists from Europe to have a presence in Kenya were German. In 1890, the region came under the control of the Imperial British East Africa Company, and Kenya was part of the British East Africa protectorate from 1895 until it became a British crown colony in 1920.
Disputes over land were common, leading to the Mau Mau rebellion by the Kikuyu people in 1952, which effectively put Kenya into a state of emergency for the next seven years. The first direct elections took place in 1957, with the Kenya African National Union led by Jomo Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu, forming the first government.
On June 1st 1963, Kenya became a self-governing country when Jomo Kenyatta became the first prime minister. Full independence from British rule followed on December 12th 1963 when Kenya became an independent nation. This is one of the three national holidays created by Article 8 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
Eid ul Fitr (Date depending upon the appearance of the moon)
Eid al-Fitr ( eed əl FIT-ər; Arabic: عيد الفطر ʻĪd al-Fiṭr, IPA: [ʕiːd al fitˤr]),(sometimes known as Eid ul-Fitr), also called the “Festival of Breaking the Fast“, is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan. This religious Eid is the only day in the month of Shawwal during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. The date for the start of any lunar Hijri month varies based on when the new moon is sighted by local religious authorities, so the day of celebration varies by locality. The holiday is widely called Korité in West Africa.
Eid al-Fitr has a particular salat (Islamic prayer) that consists of two rakats (units) generally performed in an open field or large hall. It may only be performed in congregation (jamāʿat) and features six additional Takbirs (raising of the hands to the ears while saying “Allāhu ʾAkbar”, meaning “God is the greatest”) in the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam: three at the start of the first rakat and three just before rukūʿ in the second Rakat. Other Sunni schools usually have twelve Takbirs, similarly split in groups of seven and five. In Shia Islam, the salat has six Takbirs in the first Rakat at the end of qira’a, before rukūʿ, and five in the second. Depending on the juristic opinion of the locality, this salat is either farḍ فرض (obligatory), mustaḥabb Mosab Jamal (strongly recommended) or mandūb مندوب (preferable).
Eid Ul Adha (Date depending upon the appearance of the moon)
Eid-ul-Adha, which is celebrated by Muslims across the world, is an important part of the Islamic calendar alongside Eid-ul-Fitr. Of the two Eid celebrations, Eid ul-Adha is often considered the holiest. The festival commemorates the willingness of Abraham to follow Allah’s (God’s) command to sacrifice his son.
It is marked during Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Eid-ul-Adha falls on the tenth day of Dhul-hijjah, the month of the pilgrimage, and lasts four days. Muslims are not required to observe the fast for the nine days, only those who choose.
During the festival, Muslims often slaughter a sheep, lamb, camel or goat and divide the meat into three parts. A third is kept by the family, a third is given to friends and relatives, and a third is donated to the poor. Dates, however, may vary from one region to the next based on the official sightings of the crescent moon.
In the Islamic calendar, the sighting of the crescent moon determines when a month ends and a new one begins. This not only causes slight date differences across the world, but the dates also drift back by 11 days each year from the Western Calendar which is based on the sun.
Moi Day (October 10th)
Moi Day is celebrated on October 10th to mark his coming to power after the death in August 1978 of founding president Jomo Kenyatta. Moi died on February 4th 2020, at the age of 95. Moi Day was removed from the list of Kenya national holidays following the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in August 2010.
However, this holiday was scrapped off the list of gazetted public holiday in Kenya in 2010 following the declaration of the new constitution. For seven years, Kenyans did not celebrate the holiday on the 10th of October as was the norm.
Nevertheless, a ruling by Justice George Odunga back in November 2017, reinstated Moi day as one of the Kenyan holidays. For the first time in seven years, Kenyans got time off work and school and unless amended by parliament, Moi day shall remain a public holiday in the country for years to come.
Mashujaa Day (October 20th)
Mashujaa Day is celebrated on October 20th. If October 20th falls on a Sunday, the following Monday will be a holiday. Mashujaa is Swahili for ‘Heroes’ and as such Mashujaa Day is also known as Heroes’ Day. It is a public holiday to honour all Kenyans who have contributed to the struggle for Kenya’s independence.
The word Mashujaa is a heavy Swahili word that directly translates to Heroes. There was a trail of blood, betrayal, and suffering of innocent people and selfless heroes before we could claim our freedom as a nation.
The public holiday aims at honouring Kenyan forefathers who fought for us to get independence from the British colonialists. Initially, the day was known as Kenyatta Day and it was in honour of our country’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Jamhuri Day (December 12th)
Jamhuri Day (Republic Day) is a national holiday in Kenya, celebrated on 12 December each year. Jamhuri is the Swahili word for “republic” and the holiday is meant to officially mark the date when Kenya became a republic on 12 December 1964, one year and six months after gaining internal self-rule on 1 June 1963 from the United Kingdom.
The Trooping of the Colour of the Kenya Defence Forces takes place every Jamhuri Day. The ceremony begins at 11:30 after the President of Kenya, takes the national salute, and inspects the parade. The band plays a slow march followed by a quick march the lone drummer then breaks away to take his position beside the number one guard to play the drummers call, signalling the officers of the No.1 Guard to take positions to receive the colour. The escort for the colour then marches off to collect the colour as the massed KDF band plays the chosen Kenyan tune. After the handover and as the Escort presents arms the first verse of the Kenya national anthem is played, then the escort to the colour marches off in a slow march to the tune of the British grenadier guards. The first tune normally played during the march is always ‘By land and sea
Christmas Day (December 25th)
Christmas (or the Feast of the Nativity) is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration by billions of people around the world. The first official mention of December 25 as a holiday honouring Jesus’ birthday appears in an early Roman calendar from 336 A.D. The celebration of Christmas spread throughout the Western world over the next several centuries, but many Christians continued to view Epiphany and Easter as more important.
In Kenya, Christmas day is considered a special time for Kenyans to spend with their families and it is the one time most people travel to their rural homes. In Kenya, Christmas is celebrated through gifts giving, church services, singing of carols and going to parties.
Boxing Day (December 26th)
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas Day, occurring on the second day of Christmastide. Though it originated as a holiday to give gifts to the poor, today Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday
It originated in the United Kingdom and is celebrated in a number of countries that previously formed part of the British Empire. The holiday is meant to commemorate the time when the wealthy in the U.K would offer a box of gifts to their servants.
Kenya, being one of the nations colonized by the British adopted the holiday and it is one of the gazette holidays in the country. Today, the day is marked with the opening of gifts given during Christmas day
Diwali is a festival of lights and one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhist, notably Newar Buddhist. The festival usually lasts five days and is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika. Even though Diwali is not among the gazetted public holidays in Kenya, Kenyan Hindus for many years have jubilantly marked the holiday as they take off a day from work and school to honour their rituals.
While we diligently research and update our holiday dates, some of the information in the table above may be preliminary. If you find an error, please let us know.