One of the most VITAL celebrations that incorporates: Traditional culture, oneness with the Earth, honoring our Ancestors, respect for family and Community is KWANZAA.
This thousands of years old African tradition is the celebration of year-end harvest and the meaning comes from the phrase- 'matunda ya kwanza', which means 'first fruits' in the Swahili language. It is a Pan-African, non-religious, non-political holiday that lasts for seven days.
This holiday was brought to the United States by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, who traveled to various African countries, researched the importance of this tradition and brought it back to African American people in the United States.
It is celebrated from December 26-January 1; gifts are exchanged between family members and friends, there is storytelling, traditional songs and dances, traditional food is prepared/eaten. There are seven PRINCIPLES (Nguzo Saba), which were created by Dr. Karenga and are each represented by a candle that is lit for each day.
1- UMOJA (Unity): it is represented by the black candle that sits in the center of the Kinara and this candle is lit first.
2- KUJICHAGULIA (Self-determination): it is represented by a red candle and is placed to the left of the black candle.
3- UJAMAA (Cooperative Economics): it is represented by a red candle and is placed to the left of the black candle.
4- KUUMBA (Creativity): it is represented by a red candle and is placed to the left of the black candle.
5- UJIMA (Collective work & Responsibility): it is represented by a green candle and is placed to the right of the black candle.
6- NIA (Purpose): it is represented by a green candle and is placed to the right of the black candle.
7 IMANI (Faith): it is represented by a green candle and is placed to the right of the black candle.
Seven SYMBOLS are also emphasized during this celebration:
1- KINARA (Candle holder): this represents the original stalk from which we came- OUR ANCESTRY.
2- MISHUMAA SABA (The Seven Candles): the candles have two meanings- to re-create symbolically the sun's power and to provide light.
3- MAZAO (The Crops): it represents fruits, nuts and vegetables that come from the harvest and the gathering of people celebrate their work from that harvest.
4- MKEKA (Place Mat): the mat expresses history, culture and tradition. It symbolizes the historical & traditional foundation for us to stand and build our lives. African artifacts and books on the life, culture of African people are placed on and next to the mat to symbolize our COMMITTMENT to heritage and learning.
5- VIBUNZI (Ear of Corn): the stalk of corn represents fertility and symbolizes that through the reproduction of children, the future hope for family are brought to life. Each ear of corn represents a child.
6- KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA (The Unity Cup): it is a special cup that is used for libation (TAMBIKO) ritual during the feast on the sixth day of Kwanzaa. It is poured in the direction of the four winds (north, south, east, west).
7- ZAWADI (Gifts): the gifts represent encouragement, growth, determination, achievement and success.