Kwanzaa is here! This year, the holiday begins on Wednesday, December 26th and here’s everything you need to know!
Kwanzaa (2018) officially kicked off on Wednesday, December 26! The week-long holiday tradition will conclude on Tuesday, January 1. Kwanzaa consists of bright colors, meaningful symbols and principles and more. Here’s five facts about the holiday!
1. What is Kwanzaa? — Kwanzaa is a holiday that is based on the “first harvest” celebrations in Africa. It is not a religious holiday, but instead, it is a celebration of culture, meaning people of all religions can participate in its traditions. Kwanzaa dates back to 1966, when Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created the “Kwanza.” The word “Kwanzaa” has had its spelling changed, according to History.com, which states that Karenga added an extra “a” so that the word could have seven letters. Why? … At the first Kwanzaa, seven children were in present and they each wanted a letter to represent them. During a 2013 interview, Karenga explained: “The celebration of Kwanzaa is about embracing ethical principles and values, so the goodness of the world can be shared and enjoyed by us and everyone.”
2. The holiday incorporates three colors. — Green, red and black are the colors in correlation with the holiday. Each color has it’s own meaning: “Black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle,” the Official Kwanzaa Website explains.
3. What traditions are practiced during Kwanzaa? — During Kwanzaa, groups of loved ones light seven candles on a candle-holder, called a kinara. There is one black candle, three green, and three red. The black candle is lit every day during the celebration. An additional candle is lit each day to represent each principle (No. 4). On the last day of Kwanzaa, gifts are typically exchanged, and it’s also encouraged that those gifts are from the heart, or homemade in order to avoid any commercialization of the holiday.
4. Kwanzaa has 7 principles. — Umoja (unity) means to maintain unity within family, community and race. Kujichagulia (self-determination) means to define one’s own self and only speak for one’s self. Ujima (collective work and responsibility) is to build and maintain the community while helping one another and working together. Ujamaa (cooperative economics) means to create a way of living and profit from one another. Nia (purpose) means “to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness,” History.com states. Kuumba (creativity) means to do as much as one can in an individual, authentic way. Imani (faith) is to believe with a whole heart in other people, parents, teachers, leaders, and the victory of personal struggle.
5. Kwanzaa has 7 symbols. — The following seven symbols, created by Karenga, are items that are typically placed around the table. Mkeka (a placemat), made from straw or cloth, represents the foundation of one’s life and expresses history, culture, and tradition. Mazao (fruits, nuts and vegetables) represent the foundation of Kwanzaa, work, and the first harvest. Muhindi (ears of corn) represent fertility and the reproduction of children and creating family. Kinara (candleholder) represents the original place one came from and ancestry. Mishumaa saba (seven candles) represent the ceremonial objects that re-create the sun’s power and provide light. Kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) is used to perform the libation ritual during the Karamu feast on the sixth day of Kwanzaa. In many African societies, libation are poured for the living dead whose souls stay on earth. The seventh symbol is Zawadi (gifts), which are exchanged between close family and loved ones, especially children, on the seventh day of Kwanzaa.