Kwanzaa, what do you know about this festival?

Dr Maulana Karenga

Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that celebrate African heritage and identity. It is held in United States and in other nations of the African diaspora in the Americas and lasts a week. Kwanzaa in 2018 will begin on Wednesday, 26 December and ends on Tuesday, 1 January 2019.

Kwanzaa was created by American Black Power and secular humanist Maulana Karenga, also known as Ronald McKinley Everett in 1966, specifically African-American holiday, in a spirit comparable to that of Juneteeth.

The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili word meaning “matunda ya kwanza” in English “first fruits of the harvest. Kwanza itself simply means “first” in English. Kiswahili is a language widely spoken in East Africa and some parts of Central Africa, it is the most widely spoken language in the continent, so it was chosen due the fact is a symbol of pan Africanism.

Kwanzaa is being celebrated in Southern Africa, Karenga was partly inspired by the Umkhosi Wokweshwana, a Zulu festival.

Kwanza was established to help African Americans to reconnects with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage”, which Karenga said is a communitarian African philosophy.

The extra “a” was added simply to accommodate seven children at the first-ever Kwanzaa celebration in 1966, each of whom wanted to represent a letter.
Often though as the alternative for Christmas but many people celebrate both Kwanzaa and Christmas. Kwanzaa is not a religion ceremony but a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality. Thus, Africans of all faiths can celebrate Kwanzaa. A non-blacks can also celebrate Kwanzaa.

Then seven principles or Nguzo Saba of Kwanzaa as determined by Karenga are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). Kwanza has also seven symbols, mazao (crops), mkeka (mat), kinara (candleholder), muhindi (corn), kikombe cha umoja (unity cup), zawadi (gifts) and mishumaa saba (seven candles)-that are traditionally arranged on a table. Three of the seven candles are red representing struggle, three of the candles are green, representing the land and hope for the future, and one the candle is black, representing people of African descent. Some families who celebrate Kwanzaa dress up or decorate their homes in those colors.

Color Symbols of Kwanzaa

In order to avoid over commercialisation, gifts which are handed out to family members on the last day of the Kwanzaa are often homemade. Alternatively some people buy books, music, art accessories or other culturally themed products, and preferably from a black owned businesses.

Family Celebrating Kwanzaa

When they were presidents, presidents Bill Clintons, George W. Bush and Barack Obama with his wife Michelle, issued statements and wished all participants well in celebrating Kwanza, but they never participated.

Recently as from 2011, family featured in celebration are dressed in traditional African garb lighting the kinara.

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