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Kenyan Holidays: How Today's Celebrations Challenge the Colonial Narrative

Utamaduni Day, Jamhuri Day, Mashujaa Day, Huduma Day, and Madaraka Day are all Kenyan holidays that challenge the colonial narrative. Article 9 of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya is responsible for creating three of these holidays—Madaraka Day, Mashujaa Day, and Jamhuri Day. Madaraka Day is usually on June 1 and celebrates Kenyan self-governance with the Madaraka Day speech and the singing of the national anthem. In Swahili, madaraka means power, and, fittingly, this holiday commemorates the establishment of self-rule in June 1963. Mashujaa Day, which was originally called Kenyatta Day in remembrance of Jomo Kenyatta, first Prime Minister and then president of Kenya who advocated for independence, celebrates all those involved in the independence movement. It is observed on October 20. Similarly, Jamhuri Day, December 12, is the Kenyan equivalent of the American holiday the Fourth of July. Hudumu Day and Utamaduni Day, the only two holidays not created by the new constitution, also celebrate Kenyan culture. The day after Christmas was originally Boxing Day, which originated eight centuries ago in the United Kingdom, but was changed to Utamaduni Day in December 2019. It honors Kenyan culture and heritage. Hudumu Day used to be called Moi Day, after President Daniel Arap Moi, but was changed to better encapsulate its true purpose—charity. Hudumu loosely translates to serve. These new additions to the holiday season all exemplify Kenyan heritage, culture, and pride.


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