Kwanzaa is 10 days away and it is expected to be celebrated by around 18 million people around the US. Kwanzaa was founded by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a professor of black studies, in 1966. This year marks the 46th annual celebration of a holiday created to honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans who were working for progress. A celebration that is based on the year end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout all of Africa for thousands of years, Kwanzaa gets its name from the Swahili phrase, "matunda ya Kwanzaa." Karenga chose a Swahili phrase because it is a language spoken by many people all over Africa.
Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa represent the Seven Principles(Naguzo Sada). Celebrants of Kwanzaa greet each other every day with "Habari gani" or "What's the news?" The answer is the principle for that day. The seven principles are as follows:
umaja(unity)-building a community that stays together.
kujicha guila(self-determination)-speak for yourself and make choices that benefit you community.
ujima(collective work and responsibility)-helping others work within your community.
ujamaa(cooperative economics)-support businesses that care about your community.
nia(a sense of purpose)-setting goals that will benefit the entire community.
kummba(creativity)-making the community better and more beautiful.
imari(faith)-believing that a better world can be created for communities now and in the future.
There are many colorful celebrations for Kwanzaa. A very important one is karamu. On December 31st families gather for the feast. Karamu may be held at a home, a community center, or church. During the feast traditional African dishes are served as well as dishes including ingredients brought to the US from Africa. These ingredients include sesame seeds, peanuts, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and spicy sauces. Especially at karamu, the holiday is celebrated with red, black and green. Green is for the fertile land of Africa, black is for the color of the people and red is for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom.
There are seven symbols that are used in the celebration of Kwanzaa:
kikambe cha umoja(the unity cup)-drank from in honor of their African ancestors. Before drinking each person says "harambee" or "lets pull together".
kinara(candle holder)-this holds seven candles, one lit each day of Kwanzaa. There are 3 green, 3 red, and on black in the center.
mishuma saba(seven candles that represent the seven principles)(see kinara)
mazao(fruits, nuts, vegetables)-to remind celebrants of the harvest fruits that nourish the people of Africa.
mkeka(mat)-the symbols of Kwanzaa are arranged on the mkeka, which may be made of straw or African cloth. Symbolizes the foundation upon which communities are built.
zawadi(gifts)-Traditionally educational and cultural gifts are given to children on January first(the final day of Kwanzaa)
vibunzi(plural, muhindi)(ear(s) of corn)-Traditionally an ear of corn for each child that is present is placed on the mat.
Although it has become more common for celebrants of Kwanzaa to also celebrate Christmas and New Years; at first only Kwanzaa was celebrated. The reason being that one should mix the Kwanzaa holiday with any other culture, to make sure the integrity of the holiday is not violated.
I myself do not celebrate Kwanzaa, nor do I know anyone who does, but I hope anyone who is interested in this holiday was able to gain some knowledge from this post. In addition, if I have left anything out-or misunderstood something(and you celebrate this holiday)-feel free to comment and let me know.
Heriza Kwanzaa, Happy Kwanzaa