The Questions and Answers behind Kwanzaa

So, I have to admit that while I enjoy all things holiday,  I know nothing of the holiday called Kwanzaa.  I find authenticity in being well-rounded, so I wanted to find out more, skim the surface to uncover who celebrates Kwanzaa, the traditions included and what the holiday means to those who celebrate.

Kwanzaa was created by Ron Karenga and first celebrated December 26, 1966 – January 1, 1967.  Since the first celebration, the holiday has taken place over those same 7 days each year.  Festivities include the lighting of a kinara and ending with a feast and gift giving.  A kinara, a Swahili word for candle holder, holds seven candles and represents the roots that African Americans have in continental Africa.  There are three red on the left representing the African blood shed, three green on the right representing the land of Africa, and a single black candle in the center symbolizing the African race.

Kwanzaa, derived from the Swahili phase “matunda ya kwanza” meaning first fruit of the harvest, was created as the first specifically African American holiday, as a way for African Americans to celebrate their roots and as a way to reconnect with the African culture and history.  Over the course of seven days, seven principles are honored and celebrated. These principles include:

  1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race and represented by the black candle.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves and represented by a red candle.
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together  and represented by a green candle.
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together and represented by a red candle.
  5. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness and represented by a green candle.
  6. Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it  and represented by a red candle.
  7. Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle and represented by a green candle.

Kwanzaa was originally created as an alternative celebration, denouncing Christmas. However, as the holiday grew in popularity, individuals who celebrate Kwanzaa chose to also celebrate the Christmas holiday.

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