Happy Kwanzaa Everyone! Lately we have been hearing a lot about the resurgence of the once popular Kwanzaa holiday. A lot of you might be wondering what is Kwanzaa exactly and why is it so important for us to celebrate as a community the principles of Kwanzaa. Well first and foremost, many of us may think that Kwanzaa is a black heritage holiday and is only for a specific culture of people to celebrate. This is entirely false and is incorrect when upholding the principles of the holiday. Kwanzaa was created for the African Americans during the controversial late 1960's when racism and segregation were still a huge problem in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in America.
The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase 'matunda ya kwanza' which means 'first fruits' in the Swahili language (an Eastern African language spoken in countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe). Kwanzaa is mostly celebrated in the USA.
The holiday was created by Maulana Karenga, professor and Chairman of Black Studies at California State University to bring unity to not only the African American community but the people in general. Kwanzaa also serves many other purposes such as bringing awareness to the African traditions which were lost throughout history and bringing a more balanced holiday to replace the commercialism of Christmas.
Even though the traditional sense of the Christmas holiday has origins in the christianity religion and the birth of Jesus Christ. As time passed in America it has become a day that is focused around gifts and materialism. Although many feast and enjoy friends and family on this day, a lot of the vital importance and humanism of the holiday has disappeared. Kwanzaa serves as a balance to this problem with the celebration of the seven principles, one on each day lasting for 7 days (December 26th-January 1st). Each principle has relevance and meaning and helps to bring togetherness, build community as well as educated our youth. When you celebrate Kwanzaa, you are not only seeking gifts but you are honoring tradition, honoring the ancestors who came before you as well as upholding each principle which helps us to be better as a people. So now that you have the background story of Kwanzaa and how it started, let's get into the details on how you can participate in this wonderful holiday!
First and Foremost You need to Setup your offering table/altar! Here a few things that you will need.
A table or a stand of some sort - This needs to be big enough to fit candles/kinara, fruits as well as any other symbolic items that you may want to put on your table.
A Mkeka:The Mat - A woven mat made of fabric, raffia, or paper. The other symbols are placed on the Mkeka. It symbolises experiences and foundations.
Mazao: The Crops - Fruit and vegetables from the harvest. These normally includes bananas, mangoes, peaches, plantains, oranges, or other favorites! They are shared out.
Kikombe Cha Umoja: Unity Cup or Glass - Represents family and community. It is filled with water, fruit juice or wine. A little is poured out to remember the ancestors. The cup is share between people and each person takes a sip.
Kinara: The Candleholder - It represents the days, and principles of Kwanzaa.
Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles - are placed in the kinara. Black, red and green are the colors of the Bendera (African Flag). If you don't have a kinara, an alternative is placing the candles in its place to represent each place.
Muhindi: The Corn - There is one ear of corn of each child in the family. If there are no children in the family, then one ear is used to represent the children in the community. It represents the future and the Native Americans.
Zawadi: Gifts - Gifts given to children during Kwanzaa are normally educational, such as a book, dvd or game. There's also a gift reminding them of their African heritage.
Option Extra Symbols:
1.Bendera: A flag with three horizontal stripes of black, red and green
2.Nguzo Saba Poster: A poster of the seven principles of Kwanzaa
There's also a special greeting used during Kwanzaa in Swahili. It's 'Habari gani' and the reply is the principle for that day. (Umoja on the first day, Kujichagulia on the second and so on.)
Now that you have knowledge you can practice this tradition and participate in the festival with your friends, family members and community! HABARI GANI!