Know Rwandan public holidays

Each day of the calendar year is important. However, there are days which have been set aside to commemorate and celebrate events, people, religion and culture. These are known as public holidays.

The first one is January 1, which is New Year’s Day followed by January 2, which has been dubbed the New Year Holiday in Rwanda.

February 1, is National Heroes Day. It is set aside to honour those who gave their lives in service of their country.

On April 7, the country memorialises victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Named the Genocide Memorial Day, it also marks the beginning of the national mourning period.

This year, the Easter weekend will be from April 19 to April 22. The dates for Easter weekend vary from one year to the next but the reason remains the same; remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who Christians believe to be the Saviour of the world. The weekend includes Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

May 1 is Labour Day, not only in Rwanda, but in many countries around the world. It is set aside to celebrate those who contribute their skills, knowledge and time in form of work. The day originated from the Labour Union Movement which advocated for eight-hour work days so that workers would use the rest of the time for relaxation and recreation.

On June 4, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al-Fitr. The public holiday marks the end of Ramathan, the holy month of fasting.

There are two public holidays in July; July 1 and July 4. July 1 is Independence Day, which is the celebration of the end of the Belgian colonial rule which resulted in Rwanda becoming a self-governing nation.

July 4 is Liberation Day and is set aside to celebrate the day Rwanda Patriotic Front brought to an end the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It marks the end of the mourning period.

August 2 is Umuganura. The public holiday is a “first fruits festival”. It was put in place to promote Rwandan culture of celebrating crops grown from the country’s soil and other achievements. 

Another public holiday in August is Eid al-Adha. This is an international Muslim “Festival of Sacrifice” to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his only son Isaac in obedience to Allah’s command. Since it will fall on August 11, a Sunday, Monday August 12 will be Eid al-Adha holiday in Rwanda.

On August 15, Catholics around world, including Rwanda, celebrate Assumption Day. The public holiday is based on the belief that upon death, the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven.

December 25 is an international religious public holiday. It is celebrated by Christians around the world to mark the birth of Jesus Christ, their Saviour and on whom Christianity is based.

The final public holiday on the Rwandan annual calendar is also an international celebration known as Boxing Day. It is set for December 26. There are many theories explaining its meaning but essentially, it originated from the United Kingdom and is just an extension of Christmas Day.