What is Kwanzaa?
What Is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African-American culture from December 26th to January 1st, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu, usually on the sixth day. It was created in 1966 by activist Dr. Maulana Karenga, based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of West and Southeast Africa.
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates history, values, family, community and culture. The ideas and concepts of Kwanzaa are expressed in the Swahili language, one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa. The seven principles which form its core were drawn from communitarian values found throughout the African continent. These principles are:
- Umoja (Unity),
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination),
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility),
- Ujamaa(Cooperative Economics),
- Nia (Purpose),
- Kuumba (Creativity), and
Kwanzaa gets its name from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, and is rooted in first fruit celebrations which are found in cultures throughout Africa, both in ancient and modern times.
During the week of Kwanzaa, families and communities come together to share a feast, to honor the ancestors, affirm the bonds between them, and to celebrate African and African American culture. Each day they light a candle to highlight the principle of that day and to breathe meaning into the principles with various activities, such as reciting the sayings or writings of great black thinkers and writers, reciting original poetry, African drumming, and sharing a meal of African diaspora-inspired foods. The table is decorated with the essential symbols of Kwanzaa, such as:
- The Kinara (Candle Holder),
- Mkeka (Mat),
- Muhindi (corn to represent the children),
- Mazao (fruit to represent the harvest),
- and Zawadi (gifts)
One might also see the colors of the Pan-African flag, red (the struggle), black (the people), and green (the future), represented throughout the space and in the clothing worn by participants. These colors were first proclaimed to be the colors for all people of the African diaspora by Marcus Garvey.
Moreover, given the continued rapid growth of Kwanzaa and the parallel expanded discussion of it and related issues, an authoritative source which aids in both framing and informing the discussion is likewise of the greatest importance. This was accomplished by providing a website to provide information which reveals and reaffirms the integrity, beauty and expansive meaning of the holiday, and thus aids in our approaching it with the depth of thought, dignity, and sense of specialness it deserves.
The Official Kwanzaa Website is: https://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org