Kwanzaa is a Pan-African holiday running from the 26th of December to the 1st of January which celebrates family, community and culture. Maulana Karenga who was professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach is the brains behind the Kwanzaa holiday but the idea has its roots in ancient agricultural celebrations of first fruits. The modern conception combines aspects of different harvest celebrations including those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu. The name itself is derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, meaning “first fruits”. Karenga thought of the holiday as a way to unite the African-American community but the holiday has grown beyond just the African-American community, with people of African ancestry celebrating it all over the world.
How can you celebrate Kwanzaa
There is no universal manner of celebrating Kwanzaa but activities during this period normally include candle lighting, playing African drums, singing, dancing and storytelling. Friends are normally invited to share in a karamu (feast), on the final night.
Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of what are called the Nguzo Saba- Seven Principles and these are unity (umoja), self-determination (kuji chagulia), collective responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba and faith (Imani). Every night, a new candle is lit on the kinara, a candleholder with places for seven candles and after lighting, one principle is discussed.
Kwanzaa is the Pan-African holiday we all need to celebrate who we are and the values that make us. Learn more on the Official Kwanzaa Website.
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