Kwanzaa is a seven day long festival celebrated mainly in United States and Canada which honors African heritage in African-American culture. It is observed every year from December 26 to January 1.
The festival is being celebrated since 1966 when it was created by Maulana Karenga with an aim to give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.
The name Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning first fruits of the harvest.
Principles and Symbols of Kwanzaa :
Each of these seven days of Kwanzaa has a principle attached to it. These seven principles of Kwanzaa (known as Nguzo Saba) are –
- Umoja (Unity)
- Kujichagulia (Self determination)
- Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
- Nia (Purpose)
- Kuumba (Creativity)
- Jmani (Faith)
Apart from that there are seven symbols also which are associated with the festival. They are –
- Mazao (Crops)
- Mkeka (Mat)
- Kinara (Candle holder)
- Muhindi (Gifts)
- Kikombe cha Umoja (Unity cup)
- Mishumaa Saba ( Seven Candles)
Kwanzaa Celebrations :
Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with objects of art; colorful African cloth such as kente, especially the wearing of kaftans by women; and fresh fruits that represent African idealism.
A Kwanzaa ceremony may include drumming and musical selections, libations, a reading of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness, reflection on the Pan-African colors, a discussion of the African principle of the day or a chapter in African history, a candle-lighting ritual, artistic performance, and, finally, a feast (karamu).
Kwanzaa Kinara Candles :
There are seven Kwanzaa candles – three red, a black, and three green. The black candle is a celebration of being black, of the unique and special qualities each person brings to the whole family or community. The green candles are vision candles – candles of hopes, dreams, and promises for the future. The red candles are struggle candles, past candles, candles the color of blood, candles the color of courage.
A different candle is lit each day :
- The first symbolizes Umoja which means unity.
- The second is for Kujichagulia which means self-determination.
- The third symbolizes Ujima which means collective work and responsibility.
- The fourth symbolizes Ujamaa which means cooperative economics.
- The fifth is for Nia which means purpose.
- The sixth symbolizes Kuumba which means creativity.
- The seventh is for Imani which means faith.
Kwanzaa Greetings :
The holiday greeting is “Joyous Kwanzaa”
Apart from that the greeting for each day of Kwanzaa is Habari Gani? which is Swahili for “What’s the News?”