Mashujaa Day – Heroes Day: Kenya’s New National Day

Today’s Mashujaa Day (Heroes Day) was a first-ever in Kenya. What used to be Kenyatta Day, a day dedicated to the admiration of former president Jomo Kenyatta, in all modesty declared by the latter himself during his reign, is now a National Day honouring all the heroes that fought for the freedom, independence and progess of the nation, before and after independence.

The new constitution, promulgated on August 24th earlier this year, did away with a lot of the previous public holidays, including Moi Day, a former public holiday that ex-president Daniel arap Moi once declared to honour himself. The new National Days: Madaraka Day, Heroes Day and Jamhuri Day, commemorating respectively the day Kenya obtained self-rule, the heroes that have fought for the country, and the day when Kenya achieved full independence.

Like most public holidays in most countries, this means an opportunity to call it a night a bit later than usual the night before, and to sleep longer the next day.

I could of course have gotten up early in the morning, to hear the President’s speech and see the accompanying shows at Nyayo Stadium, but those things generally come out even better on TV, so that became my choice.

After some nice and relaxed morning hours, the new Mashujaa Day turned out to be an excellent occasion for enjoying some nice drinks and nyama choma (roasted meat), Kenya’s national dish.

Few people seemed to be aware in advance of what the new National Day was actually about, until TV started showing the footage from the official celebrations.

To me, a day dedicated to the heroes that have fought for the country, sounds like a far better idea than one dedicated to the admiration of a quite benevolent former dictator, who had declared that day for people to admire him.

A relaxed day, watching the President speaking on TV, then meeting friends for drinks and nyama choma, is a perfect fit with the Nairobian way of life, and quite probably one of the best ways imaginable to celebrate a national day. Apparently, a lot of others agreed, as the places we went were crowded.

Next on is Jamhuri Day, on December 12th, commemorating Kenya’s independence. I certainly won’t wait until then for the next round of choma, but I’m looking forward to it nevertheless! 🙂

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