Kwanzaa is in the African harvest celebration tradition. Kwanzaa means “First Fruits” and is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st.
Kwanzaa is a lively and enriching, seven day celebration of the Black Value System called the Nguzo Saba. The first known Kwanzaa Celebration in St. Louis was held in 1969.
It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga and the US organization. It is celebrated to heighten the recognition and understanding of seven basic and ancient African values and provide a reinforcing, uplifting cultural celebration for Black people. Kwanzaa is a non-religious and a non-heroic celebration. Nguzo Saba is in the Kiswahili language of East and Central Africa and literally means “Seven Pillars.”
The seven Black values celebrated during Kwanzaa are:
- Umoja (unity)
- Kujichagulia (self-determination)
- Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
- Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
- Nia (purpose)
- Kuumba (creativity)
- Imani (faith)
How it is Celebrated
Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the seven principles. Activities of that day reflect the principle of that day. The basic items used for Kwanzaa are the
(Mishumaa Saba) the seven candles (3 red, 1 black and 3 green),
Candleholder (Kinara) for seven candles, \
Straw mat (Mkeka),
Unity cup (Kikombe cha Umoja)
Gifts (Zawadi) which are given on the last day.
Each day of Kwanzaa a candle is lit for that day as well as any candles of the previous days, until all seven are lit on the last day. After the lighting of the candle the Unity Cup is passed to all present. Each person drinks from it and strongly says “Harambee!” which means “We pull together!”
On the last day of Kwanzaa, a great celebration is organized between many families called the “Karamu” (feast) where the community comes together, eats, partakes in activities centered around the values and speaks to our cultural achievement, history and legacy.
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