It is the holiday season, and regardless of what holidays you celebrate, traditions are an important part of every culture. With our holiday season upon us, Girls to Girls members were curious about the traditions of our scholarship recipients.
During our most recent video call with our scholarship recipients, we shared the traditions and holidays we celebrate during this time of the year and learned about our recipient’s traditions. In Kenyan culture, there are many different types of dances and foods that are an important part of celebrating different holidays, having many similarities to some of the common holidays in the United States.
One of the most important holidays in Kenya, scholarship recipients shared, is Jamhuri Day, celebrated on the 12th of December. Jamhuri is the Swahili word for "republic" and the holiday is meant to officially mark the date when Kenya became an independent republic. This is a time when the scholarship recipients usually receive a 2-day break from school. In Kenya Form 4 students have returned to school. One of the scholarship recipients we talked to told us this year the celebrations will be held in school because she has exams following the holiday. The celebration traditionally has lots of food, like Githeri, a meal made up of corn and any kind of beans and spices. There are also traditional dances performed along with parades and possibly even fireworks. Jamhuri Day can be similarly compared to the American holiday, Fourth of July.
Another very popular winter holiday is Christmas. Unlike the cold winter feel in North America in December, it is the warmest month in Kenya, making Christmas a summer holiday. The girls expressed the most important part is being with family and friends. One of the girls explained that every year she goes to her grandparents house, “We celebrate together, with my parents and also my younger brother and my younger sister.” There is more focus on family time and church gatherings rather than material things. They share the Christmas tree tradition, but many of the families in Kenya don’t celebrate with Christmas trees because they can’t afford one. There are exchanges of gifts and meals of traditional Kenyan foods like Pilau. Pilau is a very common dish to cook during the holidays, and is made from rice, meat, vegetables, and lots of spices. To cook it just right takes a lot of practice, and learning how to cook during the holidays with family is a wonderful tradition for one of the girls who said, “I also like cooking and I know how to cook because when I'm with my grandma she always teaches me how to cook''.
The holidays are about joy and love, so being able to share our traditions with a few of our scholarship recipients was a great way to get the holidays started. Wishing you all a very happy holiday, no matter how you choose to celebrate.