Kwanzaa is a 7-day celebration beginning on Dec. 26 and ending on Jan. 1. Kwanzaa is blend of different African tribes’ harvest celebrations. The blending of traditions from different tribes reminds us that most African Americans will never know from exactly which tribes in Africa their ancestors came. Though African Americans have a rich culture, through the Middle Passage and centuries of bondage and forced assimilation, much was lost.
I’ve heard Kwanzaa belittled because “some dude made it up.” Well, some dude made up all of the holidays we celebrate around the calendar. Kwanzaa is no different in that regard. What Kwanzaa does do that is different is try to tie a people who are separated from their ancestors by a chasm of time, distance and language a little closer to their cultural source.
In 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga of California State University Long Beach created Kwanzaa. Each night of Kwanzaa celebrates a different principle of communal living and growth gathered from Dr. Karenga’s research.
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba) are celebrated on each of the seven nights with the lighting of the Mishumaa Saba (7 candles) in the kinara (candleholder) which sits on the mkeka (placemat) surrounded by symbols of a fruitful harvest.
Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility
Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics