The Christmas season is a time to express thanks, bond with family and friends, and plan for the future. For those who observe Kwanzaa, the festive period is over, and the new year starts with an event that celebrates the pan-African history and culture. Candles are lit, people remember the most essential principles and ideals, and they spend time with their friends and family from December 26 through January 1.
Look at this guide when you’re preparing to host your very initial Kwanzaa holiday celebration or want to refresh your knowledge of some of the terminology used in the holiday. From the roots of the holiday’s name to the seven principles and symbolisms, This is the language you should learn to master Kwanzaa.
What is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday. African-American scholar, professor, and political activist Maulana Karenga invented Kwanzaa early in his career when he was 25. He took elements of various African harvest celebrations to emphasize the strengths and values of the African-American population, including the struggle for equality, self-determination, and justice. In a 2008 interview in the newspaper, Karenga said he created the celebration to “allow Blacks to celebrate themselves and their history.”
Kwanzaa is the celebration of African tradition and Black culture. It’s intended to counter holidays centered around consumption and mainstream culture. Although people in the United States most popularly observe it, people in the African diaspora also celebrate Kwanzaa across other regions. According to a study conducted in 2012, around four percent of Americans said they were having a celebration of Kwanzaa–which could be over 12.5 million individuals.
The term “holiday” originated directly from the Swahili word “kwanza, which translates to “first, first,” and refers to the Swahili saying matunda ya Kwanza, which translates to “first fruits of the harvest.” Karenga utilized the African harvest festival to establish Kwanzaa due to the communal elements that contribute to the success of a crop, which are factors that create and sustain strong communities.
Kwanzaa is the name of the holiday. It is a holiday with an extra letter -a added to an end to the initial Swahili word. This additional letter was believed to be added to ensure that all seven children attending the initial Kwanzaa celebrations of 1966 would have the letter. It’s a fitting number since seven has a unique position for the number seven in Kwanzaa ceremonies, and it is a number that can be found in many aspects of the holiday. The seven-day celebration includes Kwanzaa, seven symbols, seven candles within the ceremony (more on later), and seven critical values centered around family and community.
What is HTML0? Kwanzaa is observed
Kwanzaa Kwanzaa is a part of the festive period across the US alongside the Thanksgiving holiday, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s eve. It’s a secular holiday, meaning it isn’t associated with any major religion. People who celebrate Kwanzaa typically observe one or more other festivals during the season.
The seven fundamentals that comprise Kwanzaa
The seven-day celebration is defined through the seven principles (or Nguzu Saba) of Kwanzaa and is usually referred to by their Swahili word. Each guide is accompanied by a day that is dedicated to it and debate about what it means. Seven principles:
- Umoja (unity)
- Kujichagulia (self-determination)
- Ujima (collective job and accountability)
- Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
- Nia (purpose)
- Kuumba (creativity)
- Imani (faith)
People greet one another during each of the seven days of Kwanzaa by using the Swahili method of asking, “What is the news?”: habari gani. The expected response is the main idea the person will likely respond to (for instance, “Umoja” on the first day).
The particulars of how each household celebrates Kwanzaa can differ. However, the gatherings of families, music, and stories are typical. Seven symbols are a further commonality. The most prominent symbol is the seven candle ( mishumaa saba), which plays a significant function throughout the holiday. The three green candles, one black candle, and three red candles are set in the kinara, which is a candleholder. The ears of corn (mehndi), gifts (Zawadi) mats (Emeka), a crop (maza), as a sacramental unity cup called Kikombe cha Umoja are also significant symbolisms.
The second day after Kwanzaa will be New Year’s Eve. It’s known as Karamu, and people celebrate by drinking, eating, and music. On either the day of karma or the last day of Kwanzaa Imani, children present their gifts, known as Zawadi, made by hand or purchased from black-owned businesses.
An additional New New Year’s tradition involves singing Auld Lang Syne. Learn the significance of this song here.
What is the significance of the candlelight on Kwanzaa?
The most significant Kwanzaa ceremony centers around the candles. The black candle always sits at the center of the table, whereas the candle flames are placed on the left, and the green one is on the right. Marcus Garvey listed these colors as the representative colors of individuals who are part of the African diaspora. Red symbolizes struggle, black represents the individuals, and green represents the future.
The entire family gathers each day before lighting the candles and begins the ceremony by singing tobiko, an African way to pay tribute to their ancestral ancestors. The house elder pours the drink (non-alcoholic or alcoholic) out of the cup for unity ( kikombe cha umoja) and then says an ode to relatives and friends who have passed away. They then consume wine, juice, or spirit from kizomba cha puja and then pass it on for others to drink the same.