Whilst Christmas is known as a symbolic Christian holiday, many other cultures celebrate this time of year in accordance to their beliefs and traditions. Kwanzaa is a festival celebrated by African Americans on Boxing Day. Although it was originally created as an alternative to Christmas it is now treated as an additional holiday. Growing up in the UK I only ever became aware of Kwanazaa during my adult years and never really got to grips with what it was all about.
What is Kwanzaa and how is it Kwansa celebrated
Kwanza was started in 1960 by Dr Maulana Karenga and is known to bring together families, communities, and cultures. It draws upon African traditions from countries such as Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana. The name Kwanzaa orginates from the Swahili language in Kenya, meaning “fruits of the harvest”. The festival lasts between December 26th to January 1st and focuses on seven main principles, these are:
- Unity – maintain family life, communities, and cultures.
- Self-determination – gaining a clearer sense of self. Establishing who we are and living our truths
- Responsibility – To work together as a community, helping solve issues and problems together
- Cooperative economics – To create our own businesses and flourish economically together
- Purpose – Working towards rebuilding our communities collectively so they reap the riches of their given potentials
- Creativity – Doing as much work as possible for us and our communities. Enhancing in richness
- Faith – Believing in ourselves, our people, history & ancestors, and working towards our purpose
Each principle is focussed on and discussed on each day of the holiday, and a candle is lit on a candle stick each day as a form of representation. The final day of Kwanzaa is where families gather together for an African feast (known as karamu) and an exchange of gifts.
During Kwanzaa families also decorate their homes using the symbols of Kwanzaa, these include, a green table cloth for the middle of the table, the wooden straw mat would then be placed on top. The mat is known as the Mkeka and symbolises African roots.
The table is then filled with fresh fruit and veg as a representation of the community and their productivity (mahzo). The Kinara which is the 7 candle holder which is a representation of the following:
Three candles on the left are red, representing struggle; three on the right are green, representing hope; and one in the center is black, signifying the African American people or those who draw their heritage from Africa.
The Muhdi is known as ears of corn and is included to represent chidren of the community, this is then coupled with the gifts for the children (zawadi), and a cup to represent family, community, and unity (known as Kikombe cha Umoja).
Flags are also used as a form of decoration, and african drums and performances are also included to entertain families.
Which ever ways you decide to celebrate the holidays we wish all of a our readers a prosperous Christmas and New Year, and we will back with even more exciting topics and discussions for 2018.
Images courtesy of Google