What is Kwanzaa and why is it celebrated?


How does your family celebrate its cultural heritage? If you are an African American, you may celebrate Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa celebrates a traditional African harvest festival. It is also a celebration of the rich cultural roots of African Americans.

Kwanzaa takes place from December 26 to January 1. Each evening during Kwanzaa, the family lights a candle in a special candleholder called a kinara. Each candle stands for one of the seven goals of Kwanzaa. These goals are ways that people can work together to build their communities and nourish pride and creativity among African Americans.

Near the end of the holiday, the community gathers for a feast. There is African food and music and dancing.

Five common sets of values are central to the activities of the week: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration. The seven principles (nguzo saba) of Kwanzaa utilize Kiswahili words: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). Each of the seven candles signifies the principles. Like the Jewish Hannakah, candles are used to represent concepts of the holiday.

The symbol of Kwanzaa includes crops (mzao) which represents the historical roots of African-Americans in agriculture and also the reward for collective labor. The mat (mkeka) lays the foundation for self- actualization. The candle holder (kinara) reminds believers in the ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries. Corn/maize (muhindi) signifies children and the hope associated in the younger generation. Gifts (Zawadi) represent commitments of the parents for the children. The unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja) is used to pour libations to the ancestors. Finally, the seven candles (mishumaa saba) remind participants of the several principles and the colors in flags of African liberation movements – 3 red, 1 black, and 3 green.

Picture Credit : Google