In Kenya, the festive season is a time of joy, unity, and vibrant celebrations that reflect the country’s rich cultural diversity. The season typically spans from late November to early January, encompassing various religious and cultural celebrations.
As the holidays approach, Kenyan cities and towns come alive with colorful decorations, twinkling lights, and festive markets. Streets are adorned with banners and ornaments, creating an atmosphere that captures the spirit of the season. Shopping malls and markets bustle with activity as people shop for gifts, decorations, and traditional holiday foods.
Traditional Kenyan cuisine takes center stage this time of year. Families prepare a variety of delicious dishes, including nyama choma (grilled meat), sukuma wiki (collard greens), and pilau (spiced rice). Special treats like mandazi (deep-fried dough) and chapati (flatbread) are also commonly enjoyed during this time. Meat is especially bought in plenty, as the holiday season is never complete without a chicken or a goat being roasted for the family. Most families buy chickens and put them in their homes making sure to feed them and keep them in a healthy condition ready for them to be the center of the table on Christmas Day.
Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in Kenya, and the festivities often begin on Christmas Eve. Many Kenyan families attend special church services where hymns, nativity plays, carol singing, and prayers fill the air. This is an important aspect of the season as it serves as a time for reflection, gratitude, and renewed spiritual connections for most Christian Kenyans.
One unique aspect of the holiday season in Kenya popularly known as “ushago,” is the tradition of visiting rural homes. Many urban dwellers take the opportunity to travel to their ancestral villages and reconnect with family members to bond, share stories, and partake in traditional customs. Elders pass down cultural heritage in stories and dance to the younger generations, ensuring that customs and traditions are preserved. The air is filled with laughter and the aromas of home-cooked meals as communities come together to celebrate the holidays. This is one of the most heartwarming aspects of the Kenyan festive season.
December is also the season of giving in Kenya. Families exchange gifts as a symbol of love and appreciation. Acts of kindness, such as helping those in need or supporting community initiatives, are also prevalent during this time. Many organizations and individuals engage in charitable activities, spreading joy to the less fortunate and embodying the true spirit of the season. At Ngong Road Children’s Foundation, we also love to partake in the act of giving. During our annual gathering that happens in the month of December, we give all families in the organization holiday packs that are a result of donations from various organizations, companies, and individuals. These packs usually contain basic food necessities such as rice, cooking oil, sugar, and maize flour among others.
As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, Kenyans enthusiastically welcome the coming year with fireworks, music, singing, and dancing. It is uncommon to find people in their houses as most of them will usually be outside on the streets, in churches, and in places of enjoyment like clubs and resorts. Parties and gatherings continue into the early hours of the morning, creating a lively and celebratory atmosphere. In Kenya, this is a truly magical and favorite time of year for many.