Celebrating Kwanzaa

By December 1, 2014 Holiday Tips No Comments
Kwanzaa candles

Kwanzaa candles
Heri za Kwanzaa! For those that do not speak the East African language of Swahili, the aforementioned phrase translates to ‘Happy Kwanzaa!’, and for those that do not know what Kwanzaa is, a grand, but brief history of togetherness and thanksgiving is in order, after which you will be prepared to properly celebrate your first Kwanzaa.

First of all, Kwanzaa translates to ‘first’ which coincides with the harvesting of the first fruits, similar to the traditions of many other cultures that come together in autumn to share the bounties of a communal harvest, but Kwanzaa serves as a holiday exclusively for the African-American peoples and is celebrated annually from December 26 to January 1. Activist, professor, and author Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1965 during the Pan-Africanism and Pro-Black movements of the 1960’s as a holiday embracing African-Americans and giving them their own identities, instead of African-Americans imitating and following other dominant cultural holidays. Although Kwanzaa was created for African-Americans it does not mean that you can’t still practice your own religion, so if you’re a Christian, celebrating Christmas as well is not a problem.

Woman Lighting Kwanzaa Candles
In fact, many of the principles associated with this week-long celebration encourage tolerance and humanity and before going into each principle you are going to need to wrap yourself in some traditional kente clothing, lay out some fresh fruits, and decorate your home with colorful, African-inspired objects. The first object that you will definitely need to begin your Kwanzaa festival is the kinara, which is a seven-place candle holder representing the origins of the African-American peoples. You will also need some ears of corn to represent the children of those ancestors, and gifts for each day of the celebration, to represent the rewards of hard work. If you haven’t gotten it by now, there are seven days to celebrate this holiday, seven candles , and seven principles to match.

The principles are the focal point of the entire Kwanzaa festival and if you plan on observing this holiday you are going to need to clear your mind of all outside influences because this holiday is anything but lazy. Each day a different principle is celebrated and when someone says “Habari gani”, meaning ‘What is the good news?’, you can respond with Umoja, meaning unity and uniting families, communities, and the races, beginning the Kwanzaa festival on December 26. Next, there is Kujichagulia (try saying that five times fast) which means self-determination and striving for one’s self. Ujima, the third day, stands for collective work and responsibility where you and your community build together and help work towards a common goal. Nia is purpose and calls for the people to understand why they are practicing these principles and strive for positivity. Kuumba means creativity, which is self-explanatory, and Imani means faith; the faith to believe in self and in others, and to believe in all the teachings that Kwanzaa embodies.

Kwanza for kids
Dr. Karenga may have created Kwanzaa with African-Americans in mind, but he also intended for all peoples to come together just like many other holidays of the same time period such as Hanukkah and Christmas strive for. Once you have practiced living these principles, along with gathering all of the necessary ornamentation also needed to observe the holiday, you will then be ready to properly celebrate Kwanzaa.




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