Celebrated by African Americans, Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration held in the United States that honors African heritage in African American culture. Kwanzaa is observed from December 26, 2020, to January 1, 2021. The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase ‘matunda ya kwanza’ which means the ‘first fruits’ in the Swahili language. The Kwanzaa festival was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Dr. Karenga wanted a way to bring African Americans together and remember their black culture. Harvest or 'first fruit' festivals are celebrated all over Africa. These were celebrations when people would come together and celebrate and give thanks for the good things in their lives and communities.
During Kwanzaa a special candleholder called a kinara is used. A kinara hold seven candles, three red ones on the left, three green ones on the right with a black candle in the center. Each night during Kwanzaa a candle is lit. The black, center, candle is lit first and then it alternates between the red and green candles stating with the ones on the outside and moving inwards.
The seven days and candles in Kwanzaa represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba):
- Umoja: Unity - Unity of the family, community, nation and race
- Kujichagulia: Self-Determination - Being responsible for your own conduct and behavior
- Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility - Working to Help each other and in the community
- Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics - Working to build shops and businesses
- Nia: Purpose - Remembering and restoring African and African American cultures, customs and history
- Kuumba: Creativity - Using creating and your imagination to make communities better
- Imani: Faith - Believing in people, families, leaders, teachers and the righteousness of the African American strugg
There are also seven symbols used in Kwanzaa. The seven items of often set on a Kwanzaa table, with the kinara, in the house:
- Mkeka: The Mat - A woven mat made of fabric, raffia, or paper. The other symbols are placed on the Mkeka. It symbolizes experiences and foundations.
- Kikombe cha Umoja: The Unity Cup - Represents family and community. It is filled with water, fruit juice or wine. A little is poured out to remember the ancestors. The cup is share between people and each person takes a sip.
- Mazao: The Crops - Fruit and Vegetables from the harvest. These normally includes bananas, mangoes, peaches, plantains, oranges, or other favorites! They are shared out.
- Kinara: The Candleholder - It represents the days, and principles of Kwanzaa.
- Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles - are placed in the kinara. Black, red and green are the colors of the Bendera (African Flag).
- Muhindi: The Corn - There is one ear of corn of each child in the family. If there are no children in the family, then one ear is used to represent the children in the community. It represents the future and the Native Americans.
- Zawadi: Gifts - Gifts given to children during Kwanzaa are normally educational, such as a book or a game. There's also a gift reminding them of their African heritage.
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