Observed annually on October 20th in Kenya, Mashujaa Day is a holiday that celebrates all Kenyans who have worked, sacrificed, and struggled for the independence of Kenya. “Mashujaa” is a Swahili word that means “heroes,” so this holiday literally translates into English as “Heroes’ Day.” This holiday has been observed since the late 1950s—first by activists and then by the general public. This day was originally known as Kenyatta Day, after the first Prime Minister and President of Kenya, but its name was changed to Mashujaa Day in 2010.
The History of Mashujaa Day
As we mentioned in our introduction, this holiday originally began as Kenyatta Day—in honor of Jomo Kenyatta, President of Kenya. Kenyatta campaigned for the independence of Kenya from British rule and was arrested in October of 1952 along with five other people on charges of being in the Mau Mau Society. The Mau Mau Society was a group in open rebellion against the British rulers of Kenya. These six people would become known as the Kapenguria Six.
The detainment of the Kapenguria Six is seen as a seminal moment in Kenya’s struggle for independence, so October 20th was set as a day to celebrate Kenya’s independence. At first, the holiday was only observed by activists, but it caught on quickly with the general public. In 1963, Kenya gained independence from the British, and this holiday was passed into law as Kenyatta Day soon after. The holiday maintained this name for the next 47 years until Kenya adopted a new constitution in August of 2010. The name of the holiday was then changed to Mashujaa Day.
Facts About Kenya
Although Kenya might not be a country that many people think about on a regular basis, it is a country with a rich, storied history. We wanted to highlight the beauty and the history of this country, so we’ve gathered together a few facts about Kenya that we think everyone will appreciate.
- The country’s official name is the Republic of Kenya.
- Kenya is a republic with a population of almost 50 million people.
- The official languages of Kenya are Swahili and English.
- The capital city of Kenya is Nairobi.
- Kenya has a land area of 224,081 square miles.
- Kenya is located in East Africa and has 536 kilometers of coastline.
- Men are guaranteed the ability to have more than one wife by the Constitution of Kenya.
- Cars in Kenya drive on the left-hand side—just like in the U.K.
- Kenya has many ethnic groups, which is why there are more than 60 languages spoken in the country.
- Kenya was a British colony for 43 years, from 1920 until 1963.
- Coffee is one of Kenya’s top exports.
- Kenyans have freedom of religion.
- In Kenya, primary education is free and compulsory. Secondary education is also free.
Mashujaa Day Celebrations
This holiday is observed by the citizens of Kenya by remembering the struggle for independence. On this day, many businesses and government buildings are closed, and political speeches are given by politicians.