Kwanzaa A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture

Introduction

December 26 thru January 1

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday celebrated December 26th through January 1st. Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, rather; it is cultural holiday based on the “First Fruits” celebrations in traditional African societies.  Kwanzaa is now observed and celebrated in countless of homes, schools, and public institutions across America. The Kwanzaa celebration is an affirmation of African Americans and their culture. Like African American History Month, Kwanzaa is a part of the cultural fabric of America and has much to offer to African Americans and Americans of all races and nationalities.

Kwanzaa has the capacity to give all Americans, but African Americans in particular an alternative worldview ground in ethical principles which have a spiritual and social appeal.  In honor and celebration of Kwanzaa, we provide you with this brief overview.

The Ritual

On each of the seven days of Kwanzaa, we light candles, starting with the black candle and then subsequently lighting in an alternate fashion the red and green candles.  The color of the candles have symbolic meaning: the black candle represents black people; the red candle stands for struggle (effort and work) and the green candle is symbolic of future prosperity.

The Historical Narrative

In ancient African societies, beginning with Egypt, the people assembly around the end of the year to give thanks for a  healthy and prosperous life,  the well-being of the family and community, to honor the accomplishments of the community, and to recommit themselves to values of the community.  During this celebration, known as the “first fruits”, the community engaged in a week long celebration of prayer, dancing, singing and feasting.

Modern Narrative

Each day of Kwanzaa, usually around meal time, the family and/or extended family and friends come together to celebrate the joy of family and the common good, to recognize and honor the achievements of the family, community and  nation,  to take inventory on what has been accomplished during the year and what Kwanzaa commitments were kept, and to recommitment ourselves to practicing the 7 Principles- Umoja – Unity, Kujichagulia-Self-determination, Ujima-Collective Work and Responsibility, Ujamaa-Cooperative Economics, Nia-Purpose, Kuumba-Creativity and Imani-Faith.  During the celebration family and friends engage in activities that reinforce the ties that bind them together and activities which reinforce the principle of that day, along with song, dance and feasting.

Seven Days of Kwanzaa

December 26-UNITY-“Unity”

December 27-KUJICHAGULIA-“Self-determination”

December 28-UJIMA-“Collective Work & Responsibility”

December 29-UJAMAA-“Cooperative Economics”

December 30-NIA-“Purpose”

December 31-KUUMBA-“Creativity”

January 1-IMANI-“Faith”

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