LET US CELEBRATE KWANZAA!!
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two supplemental ones. Each represents values and concepts reflective of African culture and contributive to community building and reinforcement. The basic symbols in Swahili and then in English are:
1) Mazao (The Crops)These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.
2) Mkeka (The Mat)This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.
3) Kinara (The Candle Holder) This is symbolic of our origins, the African continent.
4) Muhindi (The Corn)This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.
5) Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles)These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.
6) Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup)This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.
7) Zawadi (The Gifts)These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.
The two supplemental symbols are:
Bendera (The Flag)
The colors of the Kwanzaa flag are the colors of the Organization Us, black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. It is based on the colors given by the Hon. Marcus Garvey as national colors for African people throughout the world.
Nguzo Saba poster (seven principles)
Kwanzaa is celebrated from the 26th of December to the 1st of January, each day corresponds with the Nguzo Saba, as follows:
Nguzo Saba (Seven principles of Kwanzaa)
1) Umoja (Unity)
3)Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)
4)Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
5) Nia (Purpose)
6) Kuumba (Creativity)
7) Imani (Faith)
The greetings during Kwanzaa are in Swahili. Swahili is a Pan-African language and is chosen to reflect African Americans' commitment to the whole of Africa and African culture rather than to a specific ethnic or national group or culture. The greetings are to reinforce awareness of and commitment to the Seven Principles. It is: "Habari gani?" and the answer is each of the principles for each of the days of Kwanzaa, i.e., "Umoja", on the first day, "Kujichagulia", on the second day and so on.
Gifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Egypt, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history.
The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green as noted above and can be utilized in decorations for Kwanzaa. Also decorations should include traditional African items, i.e., African baskets, cloth patterns, art objects, harvest symbols, etc.
Kwanzaa: Roots and Branches
The Continental African Origins
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from the 26th of December thru the 1st of January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.
The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African "first fruit" celebrations: ingathering; reverence of the ancestors; commemoration; re-commitment; and celebration. Kwanzaa, then, is:
*a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them;
*a time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation;
*a time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honor of its models of human excellence, our ancestors;
*a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural thought and practice; and
*a time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.
The African-American Branch
Rooted in this ancient history and culture, Kwanzaa develops as a flourishing branch of the African-American life and struggle as a recreated and expanded ancient tradition. Thus, it bears special characteristics only an African American holiday but also a Pan-African one, For it draws from the cultures of various African peoples, and is celebrated by millions of Africans throughout the world African community. Moreover, these various African peoples celebrate Kwanzaa because it speaks not only to African Americans in a special way, but also to Africans as a whole, in its stress on history, values, family, community and culture.
Kwanzaa was established in 1966 in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement and thus reflects its concern for cultural groundedness in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this. It was conceived and established to serve several functions.
Reaffirming and Restoring Culture
First, Kwanzaawas created to re-affirm and restore our rootedness in African culture. It is, therefore, an expression of recovery and reconstruction of African culture which was being conducted in the general context of the Black Liberation Movement of the '60's and in the specific context of The Organization Us, the founding organization of Kwanzaa and the authoritative keeper of its tradition. Secondly, Kwanzaa was created to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people. It was designed to be an ingathering to strengthen community and reaffirm common identity, purpose and direction as a people and a world community. Thirdly, Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles.) These seven communitarian African values are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). This stress on the Nguzo Saba was at the same time an emphasis on the importance of African communitarian values in general, which stress family, community and culture and speak to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. And Kwanzaa was conceived as a fundamental and important way to introduce and reinforce these values and cultivate appreciation for them.
Kwanzaa was "created" in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor, Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, author and scholar-activist who stresses the indispensable need to preserve, continually revitalize and promote African American culture.
Finally, it is important to note Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday; available to and practiced by Africans of all religious faiths who come together based on the rich, ancient and varied common ground of their original African-ness.
*Summarized from -- Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, Commemorative Edition, Maulana Karenga, 1998, Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press.
Kwanzaa websites for family:
Submitted by: Sistah Kentake.