By: CaraG @exclusivelycarag – Kwanzaa is a unique seven-day holiday celebrated annually from December 26 to January
1. No, Kwanzaa does not mean seven more days of gifts. The last day of Kwanzaa is more focused on gift-giving, but more so meaningful, homemade gifts. That’s the beauty
in the holiday; it’s concentrated on honoring African American heritage and not the materialistic things.
Professor and activist Dr. Karenga founded Kwanzaa in 1966. Karenga created the holiday to celebrate and strengthen the bonds that African Americans have with their
counterparts in Africa, connecting the holiday’s celebration to the fight for social justice. The Pan-African cultural celebration was created to “give Blacks an alternative to the
existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominate society,” says Dr. Karenga.
Kwanzaa’s name comes from a phrase of Swahili origin, “Matunda Ya Kwanza,” and translates as “First Fruits of the Harvest.” Kwanzaa’s colors are red, black, and green – the
colors of the Pan-African flag, which symbolizes unity among African people all over the world.
Common Kwanzaa traditions include placing corn, a candleholder known as a kinara, a communal cup, and a black, red, and green flag on a decorative mat, or mkeka. The
kinara holds seven candles, one black, three red, and three green, representing the people, the struggle, and the future. The black center candle is lit first, and then it alternates
between the red and green candles, starting with the ones on the outside and moving inward. They stand for the seven principles:
• Umoja – Unity
• Kujichagulia – Self-Determination
• Ujima – Collective work and responsibility
• Ujamaa – Cooperative economics
• Nia – Purpose
• Kuumba – Creativity
• Imani – Faith
Don’t be afraid to celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa. Dr. Karenga classifies Kwanzaa to be a non-religious holiday for African American families to come together and celebrate
their ancestral roots. So yes, you can have your merry Christmas and a happy Kwanzaa, too.