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December 24, 2013 > Heri za Kwanzaa

Heri za Kwanzaa

While December is filled with the sights and sounds of the Christmas season, the month also plays host to a cultural holiday, which celebrates and reinforces family, community, and culture.

Taken from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" meaning "first fruits" in Swahili, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday created by professor, author, and activist Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Realizing the to need to preserve, revitalize, and promote African American culture, Karenga established Kwanzaa as a way to reaffirm and restore the vibrant African heritage, as well as strengthen and reinforce the bonds between its people.

Kwanzaa begins on December 26 and runs through January 1. The seven days of the holiday reflect the Nguzo Saba, the Swahili term for the Seven Principles. Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith) are the values on which community is built, and serve as the heart of Kwanzaa. People are called to remember their ancestors, reflect on what it means to be African, and recommit to their ancestral legacy during the seven days, a time to consider the questions: Who am I? Am I really who I am? Am I all I ought to be? These questions center and ground a person, bringing purpose and direction to a life and solidifying identity, as well as making the commitment to bring good into the world and sustain the positive seeds that have been planted.

Beautiful, cultural items are used in the celebration, such as colorful African cloth, pieces of art, books, fresh fruits and vegetables, the kikombe cha umoja (unity cup), and a special candle holder called the kinara, which holds seven candles. Black, red, and green are the colors of Kwanzaa; black standing for the people, red for their struggles, and green for the future and hope that comes from the struggles. One of the candles is black, three are red, and three green, together representing the Seven Principles. The black candle stands in the center representing Unity. The red candles represent Self-Determination, Cooperative Economics, and Creativity and sit on the left. The green candles represent Collective Work and Responsibility, Purpose, and Faith and sit on the right. The black candle is lit on December 26 with the other candles lit from left to right, one on each of the following days. This shows that people come first, then struggle, and finally hope.

Millions of people celebrate Kwanzaa across the world in a celebration of their uniqueness as a people, and in the continual effort to improve themselves and their relationships in order to foster a world of good and promise.









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