Kwanzaa

The history of the Kwanzaa holiday

It is a week-long celebration held in the united states of America that help in honouring the African heritage, which involves the African-American culture. The one week starts from December twenty-sixth up to the first day of the following new year. The process consists in giving gifts, and massive feasts take place in different parts where the believers of the festival exist. The holiday is considered to be new compared to other holidays which take place in the united states. Dr Maulana Karanga, the professor at California, states the university is the initiator of the celebration. He created the Kwanza holiday back in 1966, which was made to resemble the Watts Riots in 1965 Los Angeles. This was aimed at bringing the African-Americans together and working as a community. Dr Karanga did his research and came up with different celebrations that will help bring these communities together through including various festivals like Ashanti and Zulu, which acted as the foundation of Kwanzaa. The name of the celebration is delivered from Matunda Ya Kwanza, which is the Swahili name with the meaning of the initial harvest. The festival includes dancing and singing different songs, storytelling, reading poetry, drumming, and other recognized feasting. Dr Karanga developed different kinds of guidelines that were to be used in the seven-week of Kwanzaa festival. These seven guidelines were to represent the seven values of African culture that will help in building and reinforcing community among the Africa-American. Every day of the festival has its importance since every day there must be a discussion of a principle, and each day there was the lighting of the candle on the kinara, which is the candleholder. On the first night and day of the festive, the central black candle is lit, and the principle of Umoja, that is, unity, is discussed. This continues up to the last day of the festive, where different families who believe in this eat African feast referred to Karamu.

The core symbols of Kwanzaa

The core symbols of Kwanzaa are described below.

1. Mazao

Mazao is a Swahili name that means crops. It is used to symbolize the fruits of collaborative planning and working, which has resulted in the best results full of joy, sharing, coming together for unity and giving thanks for the harvest festival. Different demonstrations are done to where people bring nuts, different African fruits, and vegetables which symbolize hard work in what is referred to as Mkeka.

2. Mkeka

Mkeka is a Swahili name that means placemat. Like the crops stand on this placemat, the current days stand of the past. Mkeka represents the traditional foundation where people can stand and develop their lives.

3. Muhindi

Muhindi is also a Swahili name that means Ear of Corn. This symbolizes the level of fertility and the thought that through the children in the family, the future of the family is great and will continue to grow. To make this come through, one Vibunzi is placed under the mat for each child in the family.

4. Mishumaa Saba

Mishumaa Saba is a Swahili word that means seven candles. Candles are symbols used to represent the re-creation of the sun’s power and provide light to the people. In the Kwanzaa holiday, there are three red candles, three green candles, one black candle, which is usually at the centre, and all are placed on the kinara, which in this case is the candleholder.

5. Kinara

Kinara is the Swahili name also, which means the candle holder. The symbol of these elements represents the African ancestry, the origin from where they come from.

6. Kikombe cha Umoja

These also are Swahili words which mean unity cup. On the sixty-day of the festival, there is a liberation ritual that is done to respect the ancestors. Every member of the family, including any guest present in that family, will drink together to represent unity and remembrance among the people.

7. Zawadi

Zawadi is a Swahili name that means gifts. On the last day of the festive period, gifts are given, which are used to encourage growth among people, a high level of achievements done among people throughout the year, and success in the community. Handmade gifts are highly encouraged to encourage self-determination, the role people are playing in society, and their level of creativity displayed in making them.

Elements honored during the Kwanzaa tradition celebration

Below are described elements honoured during the Kwanzaa tradition celebration.

1. Assembling the Kwanzaa display

This involves the arrangement of seven symbols of the Kwanzaa celebration, which are referred to as “matunda ya kwanza” or initial fruit. In this case, the mat is placed down-first, the mat represents the tradition of Africa, and all other symbols are placed on top of this mat (Mkeka). The next thing is the kinara that is the candleholder is the next thing. It is used to hold the seven candles. Every candle has its day, from the first day to the last day. At this place, you will find the cap of unity around here to represent the unity of the African-American community. Crops are considered the nod to African harvest; therefore, crops like fruits have to be present in this festive. The presence of corn (Muhindi) shows the level of fertility in the African land, which is then given to each child in every family. The last thing to be brought to the table is gifts (Zawadi). There are provided to children, and most of them are handmade or contain important cultural values like the book that has the history of the African culture of the symbol of heritage.

2. Lighting of candles

The main important feature in the Kwanza festive is lighting the candle daily. The colours of these candles usually exist in black, red, and green which represent the pan-African flag. These candles are burned every day. On the first day of the festive, the black candle is lit. The colour black in the candle represents the people themselves. The second day involves burning the red colour, which means the struggles and the bloodshed the African people underwent in the past. The third day consists of burning the green candle, which symbolizes the earth or what the future holds. The candle then starts alternating until the final day is reached. Starting burning of the black candle then followed by the red and green means that when the black people struggle, there is a great future ahead of them.

3. Reflection on the principle of the day.

As shown in the first part, the Kwanza celebration was founded in 1966 by Dr Karanga. In his daily life, he came up with guidelines that will be used in guiding the families during the celebration period. He named the guidelines as Nguzo Saba. This means that those who will have the opportunity to celebrate Kwanzaa will not only light the candles but also will learn the principles each in every day. This was to help them look at the day’s direction inwardly as they kept the team of that day. The principles will be discussed in the next part.

4. Preparing and having food together

On each day of the festive season, there was eating of African foods, which were referred to as Karamu. These foods were to represent the blessing of their harvest and help strengthen the family and the community of the African-American bond. In this case, every family will prepare their spread of food since there is no set menu in this festive period. Different families eat different foods during this time, like those families which are near the Caribbean people will like to get their nutrition through making plantains or curry chicken which resemble the African meals.

5. Honoring the ancestors

First, before people start eating the festive food, there is pouring of liberation into the unity cup to remember the lost people and honour them. Those people who have perished are saluted. At this time, the older adults guide the process of honouring their ancestors.

6. Sharing the talents

The sixth day of the festive involves showing the level of creativity among people. Most people do artistic work like there are those communities which are best in dancing, doing poetry work, and doing African drumming. Most of the people on this day wear traditional garments to represent their origins. There is the invitation of black vendors to show their ingenuity and craftsmanship in the festive.

7. Offering of gifts

On this day, there are different gifts given out. The children are the ones who are most gifted during this day of the festive. Things like books which contain the history of people and their heritage are given to children to help them learn more about the community and their roots. Handmade products are mostly encouraged in this case and the symbols of their heritage. Usually, those given presents at a young age depend on their good deeds in society as they grow. This will be like those who perform well in the activity like dancing or any activity done is given the gift.

8. Sowing deeply during Imani

This is the last step shown on January first which comes as the sense of reverence.

The principles of the Kwanzaa tradition holiday

As shown from the above, the principles of Kwanza are seven as the number of candles is seven. Each principle is discussed in the family as one candle on that day is lit. The following are principles that govern the African-American community bond.

1. Umoja (Unity)

Umoja was made to ensure there is oneness in the family, every community, nation and race of people across. The principle is important since it encourages people to be one thing in sharing during the period of festive.

2. Kujichagulia (Self Determination)

Kujichagulia involves understanding who they are in the community, understanding the meaning of their name, having the potential to create something important for themselves, and having the potential to speak for themselves.

3. Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)

Ujima involves building and maintaining their community in oneness and making the community challenges their challenges and solve the challenges together.

4. Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)

Ujamaa encourages them to build and maintain their stores, infrastructures, and other investments that will profit them.

5. Nia (Role)

Nia involves a collective vocation that will help in building the community to restore the people to their traditional magnitude.

6. Kuumba (Creativity)

Kuumba involves encouraging people to be creative in making different ornaments that will act as beneficial than inheriting them.

7. Imani (Faith)

Imani means having faith in their hearts, and their people will come out of struggle and become victorious after their hard time.