What is Kwanzaa?

 

Kwanzaa originated to infuse racial pride and unity in the black community. Now, Kwanzaa is widely celebrated and is completely recognized in mainstream America and elsewhere. This is a non-religious holiday. It targets at reconnecting ‘black people’ to their roots and recognize their struggles as a people by building community. This is a seven day festival which is celebrated from 26th Dec. to 1st Jan. every year. It is derived from the Swahili term, ‘matunda ya kwanza’, which means ‘first-fruits’. A rich account on Kwanzaa celebration is given in the page below.

What is Kwanzaa?

The credit of propounding the festival of Kwanzaa goes to Ron Karenga. He started this festival in 1966. There are seven principals of Kwanzaa that are known as :
umoja (unity),
kujichagulia (self-determination)
ujima (collective work and responsibility)
ujamaa (cooperative economics)
nia (purpose)
kuumba (creativity)
imani (faith).

Principles and the message of Kwanzaa give universal memorandum of good will.

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Kwanzaa Preparations

  • Kwanzaa people decorate their homes with art objects, colorful African cloth like kente, fresh fruits are kept on table and women especially wear kaftans.
  • These fresh fruits symbolize African idealism.
  • Traditionally, children are involved in Kwanzaa ceremonies and they have to give regards and gratitude to ancestors. Non-African Americans also observe Kwanzaa. Joyous Kwanzaa is the holiday greeting.
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Rituals of Kwanzaa

  • The Mtume (leader or minister) calls the family collectively. Then, the Mtume greets them, ‘Habari Gani’ and the family responds ‘Umoja’.
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  • This marks the beginning of the Kwanzaa celebration. The celebration is conducted in such an order, so that each principle is substituted for the response on its respective day. Kwanzaa song is also sung.

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Celebrating Kwanzaa

  • During the celebrations of Kwanzaa a mkeka (straw mat) is kept on a table covered by kente cloth or another African fabric.
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  • On top of the mkeka, kinara (candleholder) is placed in which the ‘mishumaa saba’ (seven candles) go. These seven candles are lighted one by one throughout the seven days of celebrations.
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  • The colors of Kwanzaa are black for people, red for their struggle and green for hope and the future that comes from their struggle.
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  • On the mkeka, Mazao (crops) and the kikombe cha umoja (the unity cup) are placed. Tambiko (libation) is poured from the unity cup.
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  • Drumming and musical selections, reflecting the Pan-African colors, reading of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness, discussing the reading of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness and Karamu (feast) are generally included in the Kwanzaa ceremony.
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  • If there are children in the family, Muhindi (ears of corn) are kept on the Kwanzaa table. Some families place Vibunzi (one ear of corn) for each child in the family. Zawadi (gifts) like heritage symbols, books or African-influenced artwork etc. are given.
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  • All or some of the seven emblematic objects associated with the holiday are commonly incorporated into Kwanzaa decorations
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  • Kwanza celebration brings Africans Americans on the same platform and reminds them about their rich cultural heritage. This festival honors the universal African heritage. Today, for many families Kwanzaa is a chance to incorporate ethnic heritage elements into holiday observances and celebrations of Christmas.
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