and why Kenyans no longer celebrate Utamaduni day on December 26th.

For many Kenyans, the holiday is just the day after Christmas

While Boxing Day is a recognisable holiday worldwide, most people acknowledge it by its name, as the day boxes of presents are open, without putting much stock in its celebration. For most Kenyans, it is just the day after Christmas and for one day in 2019, a day also once known as Utamaduni day.

Channel 1
Origins of Boxing Day

There are three main origin stories that revolve around this holiday celebrated around the world on December 26th.

As a former British Colony and a member of the Commonwealth, the origin story that best explains how Kenya came to celebrate Boxing Day lies in British history.

According to the BBC, the day got its name during the reign of Queen Victoria in the 1800s. The name came from the tradition of wealthy British families boxing up gifts to give to the poor and by extension, their servants.

Since servants of aristocrats were required to work on Christmas, the following day became the time when their employers filled up boxes with gifts, money, and Christmas leftovers for them, much like a holiday bonus. Servants could then go home to share the gift boxes with their families.

The second origin lore as stipulated by the History channel says that the name is derived from alm boxes placed in churches for the collection of donations for those in need.

On December 26, clergy members would give these funds to the poor in honour of the feast of St. Stephen, a Christian martyr known for charitable acts. St. Stephen holds so much significance that in Ireland, Boxing Day is referred to as St. Stephen’s Day.

The third origin story lies in a Christmas carol called “Good King Wenceslas” which tells the story of a Bohemian Duke from the 10th Century.

The carol says that on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26), the Duke observed a poor man on his land, struggling to gather wood in the middle of a snowstorm. He was so moved by this sight that he gathered food and wine and delivered it to his door, inspiring a tradition.

Despite the differing stories of the day’s origin, the theme of charity is consistent in all three tales denoting Boxing Day as a day of gift-giving, charity and goodwill.

2019’s Utamaduni Day

While the confusion has since been cleared up, for one day in 2019, Kenya ditched the universally recognised Boxing Day for Utamaduni Day.

On December 19, 2019, the cabinet of former President Uhuru Kenyatta approved the renaming of Moi Day to Huduma Day, and also proposed to amend the Public Holidays Act (Cap 109), renaming Boxing Day, which falls on December 26, to Utamaduni Day.

The proposed holiday was meant to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Kenya in a manner that promotes unity, national cohesion and economic progress of the country and in 2019, Kenyans celebrated that day on December 26th.

However, the proposed change of holiday was subject to approval by Parliament and that was not done.

Instead, in December 2020, MPs passed the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, renaming Moi Day to Utamaduni Day leaving December 26th as Boxing Day.

KBC Digital
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