What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is an African American festival that celebrates black life and culture. It is most commonly celebrated by people of West African descent to promote their common heritage. This non-religious celebration takes place between December 26 and January 1. It is said that Kwanzaa promotes a shared sense of community among those who celebrate it.

History of Kwanzaa

The celebration of Kwanzaa was first introduced in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of African studies. He created this festival so that people in the black community could celebrate their lives and their history, rather than the history of the dominant culture. The celebration is rooted in the African harvest celebrations. In fact, its name derives from the phrase swahili matunda ya kwanza, which means “first fruits”. This sentence refers to the first fruits of the harvest season.

Where is Kwanzaa celebrated?

When Kwanzaa was first practiced, it was celebrated mainly in the United States. This week-long festival has gained popularity and is now celebrated by people of African descent around the world. Outside the United States, it is most popular in Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Great Britain and France.

In the United States, around 4.7 million people participate in the Kwanzaa festivities. The world estimates are varied and range from 30 million to 2 million.

Principles and symbols of Kwanzaa

The Kwanzaa celebrations are based on the principles 7. These are:

Umoja or unit

Those who celebrate Kwanzaa should live their lives in a way that promotes the unity of family, community, race and nation.

Kujichagulia or Self-Determination

This festival encourages self-representation. This means that we should talk, act, create, define and name ourselves.

Ujima or collective work and responsibility

This principle continues with the theme of unity. Remind followers of Kwanzaa to work together to maintain a community. This means that the problems that people in the community may experience should not be ignored.

Ujamaa or cooperative economy

In addition to maintaining and caring for the community, Kwanzaa suggests the cooperative economy. This means building an economic system independent of the dominant economy. Companies, shops and shops that work together to support each other and take advantage of each other.

Nia or purpose

This principle reinforces the idea of ​​unity, suggesting that the black community works together to achieve its previous greatness.

Kuumba or creativity

Being creative is the key to Kwanzaa’s principles. Kuumba, in particular, suggests being as creative as possible to make the world better for future generations.

Imani or faith

Imani promotes trust in the people of the community, leaders, parents and teachers.

The Kwanzaa festivities also involve seven symbols. The central symbol is the Mkeka (mat). Practitioners use this mat to place other key symbols, such as the kinara (candle holder), mishumaa saba (seven candles), mazao (the crop), vibunzi (wheat ear), kikombe cha umoja (cup of unity), zawadi ( presents) .

Rituals and customs of Kwanzaa

Each of the previously mentioned symbols is used in Kwanzaa rituals. The seven candles, for example, represent each of the seven principles. One is lit every day of the week’s celebration, starting with the black central candle. The other candles are green and red.

The unit cup is used on day 6. Each person drinks from the cup during dinner. Subsequently, the older person present fills the cup with water, juice or wine and points the cup in each of the cardinal directions (north, south, east and west). After asking for a blessing from the gods and ancestors, the cup is poured onto the ground.

Gifts are also exchanged during this celebration, especially handmade items. This is to promote creativity (one of the principles) and avoid the materialism of shopping. By accepting a gift, you promise to meet the guest’s expectations regarding the rights and duties of the family.

Meaning in society

Kwanzaa has continued to gain popularity all over the world with many political leaders who now recognize the tradition and express best wishes to those they celebrate. These festivities have helped to expand the idea of ​​family and unite a historically torn ethnic group due to slavery. Moreover, he gave voice to a culture that has experienced oppression all over the world.


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