You’ve probably heard of Kwanzaa, but how much do you know about where it came from, or what it means?
What is Kwanzaa? – Kwanzaa is cited as one of the major annual cultural and spiritual holidays, but it gains less cultural exposure than Eid, Chanukah or Christmas. It’s a comparatively young festival, but it holds no less significance in African communities. Kwanzaa is a celebration of African identity and consolidated community that takes place in Canada and the United States. Kwanzaa is observed around the end of the year, in the week between the 26th of December and the 1st of January- traditionally referred to as the “Holiday Season” by those of the Jewish or Christian faiths.
Where did it come from? – The idea for Kwanzaa came from Maulana Karenga, a member of the US organisation, an African American discussion group formed in the 1960s as the Black nationalist movement became more moderate and Black communities began to assimilate. The group was geared towards distinguishing the African-American community as a unique one. Its members were neither African, nor American, and Karenga believed they needed to take pride in their heritage and celebrate themselves as a unique community, rather than just following the traditions of North American culture.
How is it celebrated? – Celebrating Kwanzaa involves practicing many historic African forms of cultural celebration. Traditional music, dance, art and readings of prose or poetry are common, with a focus on celebrating origins and ancestors. As with most cultural celebrations, food and libations are often the central event of the festival. Libations are consumed from a traditional shared cup, the Kikombe cha Umoja, and a feast is enjoyed, known as Karamu Ya Imani, The Feast of Feasts.
Symbols and Ideas – The seven days of Kwanzaa each represent one of its seven central ideas, the Nguzo Saba. They represent Collective Work and Reponsibility, Faith, Unity, Creativity, Self-Determination, Co-operative Economics and Purpose. African clothing such as Dashikis and Kaftans are worn, and a set of seven candles, each one representing one of the principles of Kwanzaa are lit in a ceremonial holder, called a Kinara.
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