Happy Kwanzaa!

As promised, here’s a post on Kwanzaa enjoy!

Kwanzaa is a fairly new holiday. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State

The creator of Kwanzaa

University, Long Beach. After the Watts riots in LA, Dr. Karenga wanted to find a way to bring African-Americans together. He researched several types of African harvest celebrations and combined them to create Kwanzaa in 1966.

Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration that starts on December 26th. Although every family celebrates Kwanzaa differently, most include dancing, songs, drumming, story telling, poetry, and large meals. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights a candle on the Kinara. Afterwards, one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa is discussed. The principles are called Nguzo Saba which means seven principles in Swahili. These principles are values that are important to African culture and help build and reinforce a sense of community among African-Americans. In addition to the seven principles, there are seven symbols used to represent them.

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Umoja (Unity): This principle means that you should build and maintain unity throughout your family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (Self determination): You are the master of your own destiny. You should define who you are, name who you are, create who you are, and most importantly, speak for yourself.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): As a community, you need to work together. If one person has a problem, it becomes everyone’s problem and so it should be solved using teamwork.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): Communities should prosper together. You should build and maintain stores, shops, and businesses within the community and profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose): There should be a reason behind everything you do. As a member of the community, you should work to build and develop it to restore the people to greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity): You should strive to do as much as you can in any way you can to leave the community in a greater state.

Imani (Faith): You should believe in yourself and others. Believe that things will come out right even when they seem wrong.

A couple of the symbols of Kwanzaa

The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa 

Mazao (the crops): The crops are the main staple of the holiday and represent work. In Africa, harvest festivals are held in which joy, sharing, unity and thanks are the result of collective planning and work. The bond between family members and the community are celebrated and reaffirmed by gathering together.

Mkeka (Place Mat): The place mat or mkeka symbolizes historical and traditional foundations for the people to stand and build their lives on. Without knowing your history, you’ll never where you are going. Ancient societies in Africa made mats from straw and grains and sewed them together. The stalks were then used to create baskets and other mats. Today, mats are made from Kente cloth, mud cloth and other textiles from Africa.  Basically, this principle is all about knowing, understanding and building on your history.

Vibunzi (Ear of Corn): The stalk of corn symbolizes fertility and reproduction. Each ear of corn represents a child in the family. One is placed on the place mat for each child. In Africa, each community member joins in to help care for all the children in the community. Children are important during Kwanzaa and throughout African culture in general because they are the future. 

Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles): There are seven candles lit during Kwanzaa. They represent the sun’s power and provide light. One candle is lit on each day to represent each principle. The other candles are also lit to provide more light and vision. The color of the candles are red, black and green, modeled off of the flag Marcus Garvey created. They also represent African god, Shango, the people, and the earth. 

Kinara (The Candle holder): The candle holder represents African ancestry. The candles are placed in the candle holder, just like people are placed in the hands of our ancestors who are supposed to protect and help us through danger, evil and mistakes.

Kikombe Cha Umoja (The Unity Cup): The unity cup is used to perform a libation ritual on the sixth day of Kwanzaa. Many African societies pour libation for the living dead who still roam the earth. On the sixth day, the unity cup is passed between family members and their guests to promote unity. Then, the eldest person pours the libation in the direction of the four winds to honor ancestors. He or she then asks the gods and ancestors to join them and in return bless the people who are not present. Afterward, the eldest pours libation to the ground and everyone says amen.

Zawadi (Gifts): On the last day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, success, and self determination. Gifts are used as a way to reward everyone for their accomplishments and commitments they kept throughout the year.

Happy Kwanzaa everyone! If I didn’t get all the facts right please let me know! It was my first time looking into the holiday!

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