Jamhuri Day

A Time To Be Happy~Let's Celebrate Our Freedom

Map of Kenya

Figure 1: This is a colorful map of Kenya, showing it's relation in size to the surroundig Arican countries.  http://www.infoplease.com/atlas/country/kenya.html




Jamhuri Day is a time for Kenyans to express their gratitude for their freedom through dance, feasting, parades, and other optional public events. All of the activities that are performed on Jamhuri Day are representations of the way Kenyans view life, and the values that stand within their society. Jamhuri Day is significant to the Kenyan people because it reminds them of where they have come from as a nation and it is an illustration of unity in its greatest form. During Jamhuri Day there is a recurrent theme of unity, which does not change as the feast, dances, parades, and speeches are all examples of being in unity with other people. With the many festivities that are going on, the Kenyans keep a close focus on unity, which is an important value of their culture. Jamhuri Day is vital to Kenya because it tells of it's past, and when any nation recognizes and embraces it's past, that nation is more equipped to manage with the future.


Kenyan flag  

Figure 2: Above is the National flag of Kenya, which represents defense, the people, struggle for independence, wealth, and peace and unity of Kenya. http://kenyan.8m.com/kenflag.htm

Figure 3: Above are Kenyan male performing a dance called Sikuit. Dances are done at many of the Kenyan celebrations. http://www.magicalkenya.com


Jamhuri Day is a Kenyan holiday, celebrating Kenya 's independence from Great Britain on December 12, 1963, and the establishment of its republic, December 12, 1964, and (Coger 1996: 467). Jamhuri Day is always celebrated on the twelfth of December. Jamhuri Day is a time for Kenyans to celebrate their freedom integration of old traditions, and new activities to show their happiness. Family ties are very strong and important in Kenyan Society, and one of the things usually done on Jamhuri Day is the coming together of relatives to celebrate the independence of Kenya . The need of a close-knit family is stressed throughout this Kenyan holiday. There are a host of things done on this day, from the private convening of relatives in the home, to bungee jumping in the public streets. All of the Kenyan activities done on Jamhuri Day symbolize their freedom, and the modernization of the Kenyan society. However, throughout the Kenyan holiday, there is a strong emphasizes on family, and the importance of a strong social structure.


Context of Kenya

Kenya gained its Independence in 1963 from Britain , and their flag (shown in Figure 2) was made shortly after denoting the struggles and the things most important to Kenya .

Kenya is located in Eastern Africa beside the Atlantic Ocean . Kenya houses Africa's second highest mountain, Mount Kenya . The climate of Kenya is said to range from arid to tropical depending on the area of Kenya . Kenya has a population of 32,021,856 people, which is an estimate considering the number of people that are dying as a result of the AIDS epidemic, ( http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ke.html ). AIDS is one of the biggest problems concerning the well being of Kenya . With about 50% or Kenyans living under the poverty line they have to work together, (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ke.html ). For this reason, there is a lack of resources available to the poor Kenyans, therefore making dancing an option of a way to celebrate many holidays, as shown in Figure 3, ( www.magicalkenya.com ). Kenyans as a whole is an agricultural country, however, there are some tribes in Kenya that continue to be nomadic as they were many years ago.


Origins of Jamhuri Day

Jamhuri Day was started after Kenya received its independence from Great Britain in 1963. Kenyans, known as the “Freedom Fighters” or Mau Mau (which rhymes with cow), had to fight and win Kenya 's Independence , (Peace Osangir, personal interview; 2004 www.allthingskenyan.com/maumauwomen.html). On December 12, 1964, Kenya formed its government after being independent for one year. Immediately after Kenya received its independence, the day of celebration was named “Jamhuri Day”, Swahili ( Kenya 's National language) for Independence , (Peace Osangir, personal interview).



Aside from the dances done on Jamhuri Day, there are also parades and speeches. The 40 th anniversary of Kenya 's Independence was marked by a speech by their president; that can be viewed on the web. Kenya has been modernized in many ways, which have affected the country's way of celebrating this side of their culture will be greatly discussed in on this page. I found the way that peer-reviewed sources and websites described this celebration were vague and sometimes out-dated. I found the most accurate and descriptive details on the celebration of this country from two Kenyan students at Miami University , Shelia and Peace Osangir. Shelia states that one of the things done on this day is bungee jumping. One new way of celebrating on Jamhuri Day is bungee jumping. Men would jump from bridges as a way to celebrate their country's independence. She confirmed that people celebrated Jamhuri Day by coming together with family members and feasting. During this time Kenyans will also enjoy air shows put on by the Kenyan navy. In Kenyans capital, Nairobi , there are sometimes fireworks to celebrate the event, but they are not a necessity to the holiday. It is at this time that Kenyans usually raise their flags high, showing pride in their country and their independence.

The biggest activities that go on to celebrate this holiday are a speech by the president, and a parade. There are eight provinces in Kenya , each having a head known as the Provincial Commissioner, and then there is the President who is the head of all of the provinces, and the head of the capital province. He decides on a topic to present to the capital province, and sends a copy of it to the other heads where the Provincial Commissioners read the speech to the people of their province (Osangir, personal interview; 2004). The other big tradition of Jamhuri Day is a series of parades that take place in each province. Kenyan police officers, army and navy officials will dress up in their work clothes, and carrying their work tools, parade around Kenya as a way to show that they have the freedom to work where they desire.




The most traditional and widespread way of celebrating Jamhuri Day is feasting with the family. The Kenyan family will come together and enjoy having one another on Jamhuri Day and during their recreation they will usually feast on delicious Kenyan cuisine. Some delicious samples of possible Kenyan foods are shown in Figure 4.

James Mbugua, a Kenyan chief, prepared these particular dishes .




Prognosis for Jamhuri Day

As music in Kenya continues to grow and evolve, and opportunities for young talented Kenyans increase, the future looks to have promise for progress ( (http://www.kenyafacts.com/music.html ). As the opportunities are evolving in the Kenyan society so are the ways to celebrate Jamhuri Day. It is for this reason that Jamhuri Day is increasing in popularity. People are beginning to value their freedom, and the different ways that they can celebrate Jamhuri Day, which make the day more popular. As the basic traditions and ways Jamhuri Day are celebrated change, the basic meaning and of the day will always be very important, and therefore, a vital growing part of the Kenyan culture.



The Kenyan holiday of Jamhuri Day tells many things about the Kenyan people through the way that they celebrate their independence. With a host of activities from feasting in the privacy of ones home to the public bungee jumping off a bridge, all the components of the holiday are essential to the Kenyan people, and carry symbols that can help to express how the Kenyans feel about life, family, and their overall organization of society. When taking the time to look at the culture, one can see the value of unity, family, and self-expression in the Kenyan celebration of Jamhuri Day. No two cultures are the same, but the Kenyans unique way of celebrating a day that almost every country has, makes it a special place.



Internet References Cited

  • CIA 2004. National Flag of Kenya. The World Fact book


    This is a government issued site full of accurate facts about Kenya and other countries.


  • Kenya Tourist Board. 2004. Dance and Music. Magical Kenya


    .This is a tourist website with intersesting attractions in Kenya, this site also gives a short history of Kenya.


  • Olds, Jennifer 2004. Kenyan Cuisine. Cal Poly Pomona & the Community

  • This is a site full of delicious Kenyan Cuisine, with a few recipes to enjoy Kenyan food.


  •  Safaris & Travel 2004. Traditionla Dance in Kenya. Kenya. http://www.kenya.com/music.html
  • This is also a travel site, that presents some of the attractions in Kenya. This website offers travel services.



Peer-Reviewed References Cited

  • Clague, Christopher K

    2001 Culture and Development: International Perspectives. Thousand Oaks Sage Publications
  • Coger, Dalvan

    1996 Kenya: World Bibliographical Series. ABC-CLIO Ltd., 497. Clio Press.

  • Crowther, Finlay, and Matt Fletcher

    2000 Kenya. New York: Lonely Planet Publications.

  • Davies, Merryl Wyn

      2002 Introducing Anthropology. McPherson's Printing Group, Victoria

  • Geolux Communications, Eds.
  •   2003 Culture Grams, vol. 3: Africa. Axiom Press, Inc, 231.

        New Hampshire: Geolux Communications, Inc.

    Thompson, Sue Ellen

                         2003 Holiday Symbols and Customs. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.


Contact Jim Aimers | ©2004 Miami University