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December 21, 2004 > Kwanzaa


by Veronica Valasquez

The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili word kwanza, meaning "first," as in the phrase matunda ya kwanza (first fruit). The second "a" distinguishes the African - American from the African kwanza. Occurring annually from December 26 to January 1, Kwanzaa is a time of fasting, of feasting and of self examination. The roots of Kwanzaa are in Africa.

Kwanzaa is celebrated at the end of the year along with many other religious celebrations and the traditional New Year's celebration. It is not designed to be an alternate or replacement for any holiday. Kwanzaa may be celebrated jointly with any or all year end holidays.

The celebration of Kwanzaa is guided by the Nguzo Saba or Seven Principles. Each day of the week-long festival is devoted to the celebration of one of these building blocks of self awareness. While the basic Nguza Saba remain unchanged. Many followers of Kwanzaa fast from sunrise to sunset during the seven days.

The number seven is a recurring theme for Kwanzaa. There are seven days, seven principles, and seven symbols on Kwanzaa. The symbols include:

Mazao, the fruit and vegetables of the harvest that are part of the celebration table;
Mkeka, the place mat on which they are arranged; Kinara, the seven branched candlestick that hold the red, black, and green candles; Mishumaa saba, that are lighted each evening;
Muhindi, the ears of corn which represent each child at home; Kikombe cha umoja, the communal chalice from which the ceremonial libation is poured; and Zawadi, the gifts.

Nguzo Saba is the Swahili word for the seven principals of Kwanzaa. They are as follows:

Umoja: Unity
Kujichagulia: Self - Determination
Ujima: Collective Works and Responsibility
Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics
Nia: Purpose
Kuumba: Creativity
Imani: Faith

Kwanzaa commences each evening with the lighting of one of the candle by the youngest child of the family. The homemade candles are then placed in the Kinara with a black candle in the middle, three red candles to the left and three green candles to the right. On the first day of Kwanzaa the black candle is lighted, and every night afterward, the candles are lighted alternately from left to right. Once the candle has been lit, the family gathers around the celebration table to read the seven principles and meditate on the principle of the day.

The Allensworth Women's Auxiliary kicked off the Kwanzaa festivities on Saturday at the Fremont Main Library. The event featured the ceremonial candle lighting, distinguished guest speakers, African dance, and a modern step dance performance. "There is a "livation" ceremony, in which we toast our elders and ancestors, and honor their achievements," Smith said. "So that we never forget who we are and where we came from. Kwanzaa is about culture, food, and family, and we celebrate the rejoining of ties with family," said vice president Susie Smith.

"Okra is a part of the symbolism of Kwanzaa," said Smith. "We make okra soup, to remember the past. Okra seeds were brought over to the Americas by African slaves."

Jean Ficklin is a member of the Afro-American Cultural and Historical Society, Inc., in the Tri-City area. The group is sponsoring its annual Kwanzaa Celebration at the Centerville Community Center on Thursday, December 30, from 6 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

"We hope that next year our organization and the Fremont Library can plan to celebrate this event together rather than have two separate events during the busy holiday season in the same city," said Ficklin.

Kwanzaa Celebration
Thursday, Dec. 30
6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Centerville Community Center
3355 Country Dr., Fremont

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