Kenyans from all walks of life on Monday celebrated the most anticipated day on the Christian calendar amid calls for peace in the country.
Christmas celebrations started on Sunday evening, with people flocking to churches on the big day while others thronged entertainment spots.
Most Nairobi streets were deserted as families attended church services for thanksgiving before going out for lunch at different places.
Uhuru Park was packed, with many families from Nairobi choosing to spend their afternoon there.
The Central Park also saw a flurry of activity. There was hardly any space to move around.
Ms Veronica Kerubo told the Nation that she failed to travel home in Kisii due to limited public transport and decided to go out with her husband and their two children to the Central Park.
“It was expensive for us to go home due to the increased fare. We saw it better to come here and enjoy ourselves with the children,” she said.
In Nyeri, inmates at the King’ong’o GK Prison had a rare moment of mingling with the public after students, lecturers and other members of staff from Mt Kenya University (MKU) paid them a surprise visit. They cooked food together at the jail.
For Peter Kabiru, who is serving life imprisonment, said it was a memorable event.
He said he had not taken chapati for eight years since 2009, when he was convicted.
MKU marketing coordinator Daniel Mwangi said the students and other stakeholders contributed Sh130,000 to ensure the prisoners joined other Kenyans in celebrating Christmas.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and businessman Wambugu Nyamu spent the day with close to 100 street children at St Mary’s Boys Secondary School.
Residents of Nakuru, Nyandarua and Narok counties flocked to various churches and entertainment spots amid tight security.
Some residents told the Nation that they had opted to celebrate the day in town as they could not make it to their upcountry homes due to the hard economic times.
“I had earlier planned to go and spend Christmas with my larger family in western Kenya, but I could not manage because of the increase in fares,” Mr James Wesonga, who had joined other faithful at the Elimu Seventh Day Adventist Church in Nakuru, said.
Traders hawking various wares were making profits.
“I have done roaring business today because of the huge number of people at the Grill Park,” Mr John Mbuthia, a hawker, said.
In Naivasha, thousands of holidaymakers, including those from Western countries, flooded resorts and beaches to celebrate Christmas.
“We are recording booming business. The year has been bad but the situation seems to be improving,” Crayfish director Peter Mehta said.
Eighteen babies were born at the Naivasha Sub-County Hospital.
Another 21 mothers were also celebrating after giving birth on Christmas Eve.
The medical superintendent in charge of the institution, Dr Joseph Mburu, said all the deliveries were successful.
“The maternity wing was turned into a celebration arena,” the hospital boss said.
Interestingly, some patients demanded to be released from the health institution to join their families for Christmas celebrations.
But they became calm after the hospital organised a goat eating party to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
At the same time, two babies were born at the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital on Christmas Eve.
In Narok, the Maasai Mara Game Reserve was teeming with local and foreign tourists. They packed lodges and tented camps.
At the Coast, government installations, churches, shopping malls, the Likoni channel and public beaches remained under tight security, with more police officers in uniform and civilian clothes manning the critical facilities.
At the Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach, where holidaymakers had flocked, a police helicopter made air patrols to ensure all was well.
Families occupied the better part of the beach, which is also known as “Pirates Beach”.
“I am here enjoying with my family and all is going on well. Our visit to Mombasa has been fantastic. I wish every Kenyan merry Christmas,” Mr Charles Mwangi said.
Mombasa is one of the preferred holiday destinations for many Kenyans and foreign tourists.
Every year, it receives record numbers of visitors arriving to savour the sea, sun and sand.
Mombasa Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop Julius Kalu called for peace among Kenyans during the festivities.
“We should let peace prevail among us and help those who are less privileged to ensure that we both celebrate this day,” Bishop Kalu said.
In Nyali suburb, revellers jammed night clubs.
In Mtwapa, Kilifi County, local bars attracted a good number of local and international revellers.
Elsewhere in the Rift Valley, the Eldoret Catholic Diocese apostolic administrator, Bishop Maurice Crowley, and the Eldoret ACK Diocese’s Bishop, Dr Christopher Ruto, asked the government to ensure peace in the country.
In separate services on Monday, the two religious leaders asked the government to ensure that peace prevails in the country.
“I want all of us to preach peace in our homes, in town and in the country,” Bishop Crowley said at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Eldoret town.
Bishop Crowley is executing his mandate in an acting capacity until Pope Francis appoints a substantive bishop for the diocese.
He took over last month following the death of Bishop Cornelius Korir in Eldoret after a short illness.
Reported by Ken Bett, Isabel Githae, Dennis Lubanga, Kalume Kazungu, Mohamed Ahmed, Samwel Owino, Joseph Wangui, Eric Matara, Magdalene Wanja, George Sayagie, Peter Mburu, Macharia Mwangi and Waikwa Maina