Saturday, December 26, 2020 Ayesha Hawkins

The celebration of Kwanzaa is from December 26th through January 1st every year. The holiday is not a religious holiday nor is it in competition to replace Christmas. As a holiday it is a fairly new holiday established in 1966 by Maulana Kerenga, Ph.D.  Dr. Kerenga created the holiday as a way to bring healing and community to the United States (U.S.) African American population after the California Watts Riots of 1965. Although the holiday was created in the U.S. it gained popularity and is now celebrated globally. The Kwanzaa holiday is a combination of many Pan-African traditions including the name, which is derived from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits”.

Many of the words and symbols are from different African harvest festivals with several from the Ashanti and Zulu tribes. The Kwanzaa holiday has seven symbols and seven days or principles of focus. Seven, in various religious practices, is the number of completion. The seven principles are called Nguzo Saba and each day of the week stands for a different principle that the African American community or anyone wishing to celebrate Kwanzaa should strive for in their daily lives and relationships with each other.

Day One: Umoja is Unity

Day Two: Kujichagulia is Self Determination

Day Three: Ujimaa is Collective Work and Responsibility

Day Four: Ujamaa is Cooperative Economics

Day Five: Nia is Purpose

Day Six: Kuumba is Creativity

Day Seven: Imani is Faith

The seven symbols are used to set the Kwanzaa table that will be displayed for the entire week. The Mkeka (mat) is the foundation and represents a connection to our shared history. Mazao (crops) are the representation of collective productivity. The Muhindi (corn) is for the child and to remind that this work is for future generations. Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup) is another reminder to move in unity as a community. The centerpiece of the celebration is the Kinara and is the candle holder that is to pay honor to heritage and roots. The candles are called Mishumaa Saba and there are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle. The seven candles coincide with the seven principles and are lit on each night of Kwanzaa. The black candle with is Umoja (unity) is lit first and is in the center. The next three principles are represented by the red candles are placed to the left. Finally, the last three principles are green candles and are represented by green candles. After the center candle is lit on the first-night others are lit left to right. The last symbol of Kwanzaa is Zawadi (gifts), however, the focus is not on material gifts but handmade gifts and educational gifts to show commitment to growth.


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