For many years in my family we have celebrated Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is an awesome kind of holiday that can be celebrated by people of any and all races, creeds and religions. It’s really a cultural celebration of heritage & African American people and community. This holiday was founded in 1965 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. It is a week long celebration that takes place beginning December 26th through January 1st. Even though you can choose how you want to celebrate, there are a few key symbols, words and activities that are crucial to doing so appropriately. The word Kwanzaa itself is a Swahili word that means “First Fruits”. Swahili words are intertwined very heavily, because it is in this way that we can capture a little bit of the culture that was taken away from us during slavery.
There is no way to understand and appreciate the meaning and message of Kwanzaa without understanding and appreciating its profound and pervasive concern with values. In fact. Kwanzaa’s reason for existence, its length of seven days, its core focus and its foundation are all rooted in its concern with values. Kwanzaa inherits this value concern and focus from Kawaida, the African philosophical framework in which it was created. Kawaida philosophy is a communitarian African philosophy which is an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world. ~OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org
The Symbols of Kwanzaa include:
The Mat (mkeka)
The candle holder (Kinara) and the 7 candles (Mishumaa Saba)
The cup (/Kikombe Cha Umoja)
The Flag (Colors: Red, Black & Green)
There are seven principles called “Nguzo Saba” that help us to focus on positive thoughts and blessings. Each day a candle is lit and the words are read and discussed. In Swahili “Habari Gani” is a greeting which means roughly: “What’s the news?” The response to this question, The seven principles are:
Umoja – Unity
Kujichagilia – Self Determination
Ujima – Collective Work & Responsibility
Ujaama – Cooperative Economics
Nia – Purpose
Kuumba – Creativity
Imani – Faith
You do not have to celebrate Kwanzaa to understand and receive the principles that are valuable to ALL people.
There are no strict guidelines for this celebration. Participants can decorate their homes the way they see fit, utilizing African clothing or fabrics like Kente cloth. Fruit can be placed on the mat (mkeka) as a symbol of a good harvest. Books or Handmade gifts can be shared. Music can be played using instruments and prayers can be said to bless the family for the upcoming year. For my family, each day a candle is lit and the principles are spoken and discussed. It is a time of reflection and meditation. We end our celebration on the last day – Imani (faith) with libations and a feast of Gumbo, Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens, Rice and Cornbread. The food is prepared by my loving heart and hands to promote prosperity throughout the new year. The idea is always to carry on these positive thoughts and feelings of self, brotherly love and community awareness ALL year! And that is how we celebrate Kwanzaa!
Wishing you an amazing holiday season and no matter what you celebrate I hope you do it in peace and love. Heri Za Kwanzaa!! (Happy Kwanzaa!)