Kwanzaa is NOT a substitute for Christmas.
Kwanzaa is NOT an African celebration.
Kwanzaa was first celebrated December 1966 and was developed by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga. With many similarities to exisiting celebrations and traditions, Kwanzaa is based on seven community and life-building principles. These positive principles are universal and multicultural in their positive uplift of a people or community.
NGUZO SABA(The Seven Principles)
Umoja (Unity)To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose)To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity)To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith)To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
The Symbols of 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:
Mazao (The Crops)These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.
Mkeka (The Mat)This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.
Kinara (The Candle Holder)This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.
Muhindi (The Corn)This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.
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.
Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup)This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.
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 (Poster of The Seven Principles)
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.
Colors and Decorations
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.
The Official Kwanzaa Website
© VANESSA BYERS, 2005 , Vanessa: Unplugged
Labels: Black Culture