From December 26th through January 1st, many individuals and families around the world are celebrating Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by those of African descent all around the globe. It is a holiday which celebrates roots, family and culture. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a common language on the African continent. The celebration coincides with the first harvest in Africa which is also called Kwanzaa.
The History of Kwanzaa
The official holiday of Kwanzaa was established in 1966 during the heart of the struggle for full rights and independence for African Americans. It was based on the principles of the First Fruit festivals in Africa tying it closely to the continent and bringing all Africans together in a sense as they celebrate the same commitments to family, community and culture. Kwanzaa as it is celebrated by African Americans today was established by Dr. Maulana Karenga a professor in the Department of Black Studies at California State University - Long Beach.
Foundations of Kwanzaa
When Kwanzaa was first established it was created to reaffirm African culture among the African-American community. It was designed to help bring the community together in a common celebration of common identity. Kwanzaa was also created to introduce and reinforce the seven principles or community African values. Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday
, not a religious one – it is celebrated by families of many religions all around the globe.
The Seven Principles
The seven principles serving as a foundation of Kwanzaa describe and encourage the values which are considered to be the best aspects of an African heritage and humanity. Each principle is accompanied by a symbol. The seven principles are called Nguzo Saba and include:Umoja
(Unity) – You should strive to create and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) – Define yourself, speak for yourself, name yourself and create for yourself.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) – Live in a close community and help all members of the community solve problems.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) – Build and profit from your own stores and shops.
Nia (Purpose) –Work together to build a community of greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity) – Do as much as you can as often as you can to leave your community more beautiful than it was when you arrived.
Imani (Faith) – Believe with all of your heart in your family, teachers, people, leaders and the righteousness of the struggle.
Other Traditions of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is a newer holiday
, but it still has plenty of traditions. The Seven Principles are just a start of what the holiday entails. Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two alternates including seven candles, corn and gifts among many others. The colors are red, green and black and traditional greetings during the holiday period are done in Swahili. Traditional African items and art are often used as decorations for the holiday.
Gifts are given primarily to children, but must always include a book and a symbol of the African heritage. The book is a symbol of learning and the heritage gift is to remind children of their tradition and history. The celebration is a formal occasion not to be mixed with any other holidays of the season. There are routines and practices that should be observed as the symbols are arranged corrected and used in preparing the meal.
The final day of Kwanzaa, January 1st, is a day of quiet reflection on what the year has held and what the upcoming year will bring. Those who celebrate Kwanzaa use this day to think about who they really are, if they act as they claim to to, and if they are everything they should be. The day is also a time to be with family and community as the holiday draws to a close.