Kwanzaa is a pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. It is observed from 26th December to 1st January each year.
A Ki-swahili word that means “first fruits”, it is celebrated for 7 days on 7 principles called the “Nguzo Saba“. Each principle is observed each day, by lighting a corresponding candle on a 7 – candle “menorah”.
The principles are:
- UMOJA – Unity
- KUJICHAGULIA – Self Determination
- UJIMA – Collective Work and Responsibility
- UJAAMA – Cooperative Economics
- NIA – Purpose
- KUUMBA – Creativity and,
- IMANI – Faith.
During those days, cultural activities are planned that correspond to the principle being observed that day. (Eg. On the 26th, family unity is stressed; on 29th (4th day), Ujaama is observed by stressing support of black-owned and operated businesses and industry).
The holiday was started in 1966, by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana studies, in California, and has grown exponentially every year since. A product of The Civil Rights Movement and The Black Power Movement (Not Black Panther), Dr. Karenga created the holiday after the Watts riot of the 1960’s with the aim of fostering some repair and eventual growth of a new sense of culture for mainly Africans; but also for Americans in the United States.
In the past, he had observed families spending their hard – earned money on Christmas shopping and gifts. So he made it start after Christmas Day (25th December), so they can take advantage of the “after – Christmas sales”.
Activities that are part of the 7-day-celebration include, the wearing of African attire, drumming and dancing, family feasts, poetry recitals, singing and a general emphasis and promotion of African culture and heritage.
Why Seven (7)?
Well for starters, there are seven days after Christmas till the New Calendar Year (1st January), and each principle is designed for each day of the week to provide a week-long celebration. Also Dr. Maulana Karenga was born in the 7th month, as the 7th male born and 14th child of a family of 14 children; he is definitely a “7” man. Also there are seven(7) letters in the word – KWANZAA! Coincidence? You be the judge.
Over the years, the popularity of the Kwanzaa Holiday Celebration has grown to just about every major city across the United States, Europe, Caribbean and even Africa.
Check your nearest community for celebration times and activities or start one at home.
Or visit their official website for more information.
Happy Kwanzaa 2018!
Here is a short interview of the founder: