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Genially about the celebration of Kwanzaa, an annual celebration of African-American culture in December-January


Saturday, Dec 26, 2020 – Friday, Jan 1, 2021

According to Karenga, “Kwanzaa” comes from a Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza which means “first fruits of the harvest.” First fruit festivals are celebrated in Southern Africa in December and January, and Karenga was apparently inspired by the Zulu festival Umkhosi Wokweshwama after reading about it. He decided to add an “a” to the word kwanza when spelling Kwanzaa so it would have seven letters. The number seven is related to the seven principles of Kwanzaa and the seven days of Kwanzaa.

Symbols of Kwanzaa include a mat called Mkeka where the other symbols are placed, a candle holder for seven candlesticks called a Kinara, the seven candles called Mishumaa Saba, crops called mazao, corn called Mahindi, a unity cup called Kikombe cha Umoja for remembering and giving thanks to African ancestors, and gifts called Zawadi. Kinara simply means “candle holder” in Swahili. The seven candles of the kinara represent the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. Three red candles are placed on the left, three green on the right, and a single black candle is placed in the middle. The black candle is lit first, and then in the following days, candles are lit from left to right. The black candle represents the African people, the red symbolizes their struggle, and the green candles symbolizes the future and hope.

In the aftermath of the Watts riots - six days of civil unrest which took place after an African-American motorist was pulled over and a roadside argument escalated into a fight with police - Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa as an African-American holiday. Karenga stated that he wanted to give black people an alternative to existing holidays that would allow them to celebrate themselves and their history rather than adhering to the practices of mainstream society. Karenga, a major figure in the Black Power movement in the 60s and 70s, is presently a professor of Africana studies at California State University. Initially, Kwanzaa was intended by Karenga to be an alternative to Christmas, but as Kwanzaa gained more popularity, Karenga adjusted his stance so as not to alienate black Christians. Now, many African Americans who celebrate the holiday celebrate it in addition to Christmas.

Kwanzaa honors what are called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, known as Nguzo Saba. This comes from Nguzu Saba, the seven principles of African Heritage. The principles were developed a year before Kwanzaa in 1965. Each one of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles. The principles are:

  • Umoja (Unity) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) - To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose) - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity) - To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith) - To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

The greeting for Kwanzaa is “Joyous Kwanzaa.” During Kwanzaa, families decorate their houses with art, colorful African cloth, and fresh fruits. Children are included in Kwanzaa ceremonies, and it is common to show respect and gratitude to the ancestors. A Kwanzaa celebration can also include drumming, music, a reading of the African Pledge and/or the Principles of Blackness, artistic performances, a discussion of the principle of the day, a candle-lighting ritual, and more. Finally, a feast of faith called Karamu Ya Imani is celebrated.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of African American culture which is celebrated annually from December 26th to January 1st. The holiday ends with a feast of faith called Karamu Ya Imani and gift giving. The holiday was first celebrated in 1966 and was developed by Maulana Karenga.