Happy Kwanzaa! I hope you are having an enjoyable holiday season. Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, and I have to admit that I’m not completely familiar with the holiday. In honor of this celebration, I wanted to give us a deeper insight into what Kwanzaa is all about.
Kwanzaa is a week long celebration, in the Americas and other parts of the diaspora, that starts the day after Christmas and runs till January 1st. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 to honor African heritage and culture. Dr. Karenga started Kwanzaa after the Watts Riots as a way to bring African-Americans together. Kwanzaa means Swahili for “first fruits”.
There are seven principles, Nguzo Saba, with one being celebrated on each day. The seven principles are: Umoja(Unity), Kujichagulia( Self-Determination), Ujima(Collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa(Cooperative Economics), Nia(Purpose), Kuumba(Creativity), Imani(Faith). It is typically celebrated with songs and dance, storytelling, and the lighting of the Kinara on each of the seven nights. The celebration culminates in a large meal on the 31st called a Karumu.
There are also 7 symbols that align with Kwanzaa: they are Mazao or crops, Mkeka( the place mat) which symbolizes history and tradition, Vibunzi( ear of corn) which symbolizes fertility, Mishumaa Saba( the seven candles) which symbolizes the sun’s power and to provide light, Kinara( the candleholder), is the center of Kwanzaa and represents the original stalk from which we came, our ancestry. Kikombe Cha Umoja( the unity cup) is a special cup used to drink the libation that is used to celebrate the dead. The last symbol is Zawadi which is gifts.
I’ve never really celebrated Kwanzaa. I learned about it in school and remember feeling as though this isn’t a real holiday. And even though it is not a religious holiday like Hanukkah or Christmas, it is a celebration. A celebration of our African culture and history. And maybe next year, I’ll throw a Karumu dinner. I wish you a prosperous and fruitful Kwanzaa!