John Chilembwe Day

Observed annually in Malawi on the 15th of January, John Chilembwe Day is a public holiday that commemorates the life of an important leader in the country’s resistance to colonialism and its quest for nationhood during the early 20th century. Although this holiday is typically observed on January 15th, it may be moved to the following Monday if it falls on a weekend.

Since it’s a public holiday, it’s a day off for the working population in Malawi, and it’s a time when schools, government offices, and businesses are closed. It’s also a day filled with a variety of patriotic and exciting events throughout the country.

The History of John Chilembwe Day in Malawi

Although the exact date of John Chilembwe’s birth is not clear, it’s believed that he was born sometime between 1860 and 1871 in Nyasaland—an African nation now known as Malawi. It is known that he was trained as a church minister in the U.S. and then returned home as a Baptist minister.

While training as a Baptist minister in Malawi, he also learned much about the abolitionist movement and brought those values back to Africa. In Malawi, he became disgusted with the cruelty of the colonial government, so he decided to take a stand.

During WWI, when Britain began to use Nyasa soldiers against Germans in East Africa, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He felt that using locals without their express consent was an abuse of power, so on January 23rd, 1915, he led an uprising and attacked an estate that was abusing African workers, killing several of the estate’s managers, along with some African workers.

Chilembwe’s revolt lacked local support, and it quickly collapsed. He ended up fleeing to Mozambique and was eventually caught and killed, along with a number of his followers, on February 3rd, 1915.

Observing John Chilembwe Day in Malawi

This holiday is observed with numerous events throughout the day. These events include parades, dances, theatrical productions, and concerts. People also spend time with their loved ones on this day and enjoy fine Malawian food such as Chambo, Kachumbari, and Nthochi.

Where is it celebrated?
Malawi (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
January 15 Monday
Next year (2025)
January 15 Wednesday
Last year (2023)
January 15 Sunday