Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration honoring African Canadian and African-American heritage and culture, observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. and culminates in a feast and gift-giving. It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966–67.
Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga said "is a communitarian African philosophy," consisting of what Karenga called "the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world." These seven principles comprise *Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:
- Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves stand up.
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together.
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
- Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
- Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
- Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat on which other symbols are placed, corn and other crops, a candle holder with seven candles, called a kinara, a communal cup for pouring libations, gifts, a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.
How to Celebrate Kwanzaa
1.Decorate your home or the main room with the symbols of Kwanzaa. Put a green tablecloth over a centrally located table, and on top of that, place the Mkeka which is a straw or woven matthat symbolizes the historical foundation of African ancestry.
2.Place the following on the Mkeka:
- Mazao - crops represent the community's productivity; place fruit in a bowl;
- Kinara - the candle-holder
- Mishumaa Saba - the seven candles which represent the seven core principles of Kwanzaa; three candles on the left are red (to represent struggle), three on the right are green (hope) and one in the center is black (people)
- Muhindi - lay out one ear of corn for each child; if there are no children, place two ears to represent the children of the community
- Zawadi - gifts for the children
- Kikombe cha Umoja - a cup to represent family and community unity.
3.Decorate around the room with Kwanzaa flags and posters emphasizing the seven principles. You can purchase or make these, and it's especially fun to make them with the kids.
4.Starting on December 26, greet everyone by saying "Habari Gani" which is a standard Swahili greeting meaning "what is the news?". If someone greets you, respond with the principle (Nguzo Saba) for that day:
- December 26 - "Umoja" - Unity
- December 27 - "Kujichagulia" - Self-determination
- December 28 - "Ujima" - Collective work and responsibility
- December 29 - "Ujamaa" - Cooperative economics
- December 30 - "Nia" - Purpose
- December 31 - "Kuumba" - Creativity
- January 1 - "Imani" - Faith.
5.Light the Kinara daily. Since each candlerepresents a specific principle, they are lit one day at a time, in a certain order. The black candle is always lit first. Some people light the remaining candles from left to right (red to green) while other people alternate as follows:
- black candle
- far left red candle
- far right green candle
- second red candle
- second green candle
- last red candle
- last green candle
6.Have the Kwanzaa Karamu (feast) on the sixth day (New Year's Eve). The Kwanzaa feast is a very special event that brings everyone closer to their African roots. It is traditionally held on December 31st and is a communal and cooperative effort. Decorate the place where the feast will be held in a red, green, and black scheme. A large Kwanzaa setting should dominate the room where the feast will be held. A large Mkeka should be placed in the center of the floor where the food is placed creatively and made accessible to all to serve themselves. Before and during the feast, an informative and entertaining program should be presented.
Traditionally, the program should involve welcoming, remembering, reassessment, recommitment and rejoicing, concluded by a farewell statement and a call for greater unity.7
7.Give out the gifts of Kuumba. Kuumba, meaning creativity, is highly encouraged and brings a sense of self-satisfaction. The gifts are usually exchanged between the parents and children and are given out traditionally on January 1st, the last day of Kwanzaa. Since the giving of gifts has very much to do with Kuumba, the gifts should be of an educational or artistic nature.
Credit Goes to Wikipedia and Ask.com for information provided. However, there are many books and resources for learning more about Kwanzaa.