The celebration of Kwanzaa may be something that you have heard of but don’t know too many details about. This is a celebration that runs over the course of a week from December 26th each year and ends with a feast and the giving of gifts. There are a number of core principles to this celebration and it dates back to around 1965, when it was created by Maulana Karenga.
Kwanzaa was designed as the first holiday specifically for African-Americans. The name was taken from a phrase from the Swahili language that translates as ‘first fruits of the harvest’. One of its aims is to help African-Americans to reconnect with both their cultural and historical roots, using practices such as meditation and the study of traditions. The African-Americans also study Nguzo Saba, which is the name given to the seven principles of their heritage. Originally Kwanzaa was intended to be an alternative to the Christmas celebration; however, this stance altered over time so that practicing Christians would also be able to take part in Kwanzaa. It has been added to the celebration’s philosophy that this is not an alternative to another religion; therefore, many people who take part still celebrate Christmas.
The seven principles of Kwanzaa are celebrated during the week, one on each day. The first principle is Umoja, which means unity and promotes unity in all areas of life. The second is Kujichagulia, which means self-determination. This day works towards promoting the self. The third is Ujima, which means collective work and responsibility and the day is spent helping other people.
The fourth principle is Ujamaa, which means cooperative economics. This is a day focused on stores and other businesses, helping to build them and profit from them. The fifth is Nia, which stands for purpose and promotes the development of the community. The sixth is Kuumba, which means creativity, and those who take part in Kwanzaa will help to create a beautiful community. The last principle is Imani, which means faith. This is to believe in the people, parents, teachers and other leaders who guide their families and friends.
You may have seen a few Kwanzaa symbols around at this time of year. These include the mkeka mat, various types of crops, a kinara candleholder that holds seven candles, and a red, black and green flag. Families celebrating the Kwanzaa festival will make their homes very colorful with art and fabrics and will eat plenty of fresh fruits. Children also play an important role in the Kwanzaa celebrations. There are often ceremonies with plenty of music and talks and the whole thing ends with the karamu feast and the giving of gifts.
There is an annual celebration at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which features a variety of aspects of African-American culture. Kwanzaa is now celebrated in Canada as well as in the US and in a number of other countries around the world.