Kwanzaa is celebrating its 46th anniversary this year. A weeklong celebration of African culture and heritage.
Launched in 1966 in the United States by Ronald Karenga, (founder of the Black Power group Us Organisation) Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas and continues for seven days until the New Year.
A festive occasion which can be enjoyed by the entire family, Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday rather than a religious one. Focusing on seven as a significant number, Kwanzaa is centred on seven principles that are meant to reinforce the basic values of African culture, family and community.
Decorate your home or the main room with the symbols of Kwanzaa. Put a green tablecloth over a centrally located table. On top of the table place a straw or woven mat called a Mkeka, which symbolises the historical foundation of African ancestry. Place the following on the Mkeka:
Mazao - fruit placed in a bowl, representing the community's productivity.
Kinara - a seven-pronged candle-holder.
Mishumaa Saba - the seven candles which represent the seven core principles of Kwanzaa. Three candles on the left are red, representing struggle; three on the right are green, representing hope; and one in the centre is black, signifying Africans or those who draw their heritage from Africa.
Muhindi - ears of corn. Lay out one ear of corn for each child; if there are no children, place two ears to represent the children of the community.
Zawadi - gifts for the children.
Kikombe cha Umoja - a cup to represent family and community unity.
Honouring our rich and diverse heritage, decorate your house with Kwanzaa flags called Bendera, and posters emphasizing the seven principles. You can purchase or make these with the children.
In order to get in the mood and spirit of Kwanzaa, try practicing the greetings. Starting on December 26, greet everyone by saying 'Habari Gani' which is a standard Swahili greeting meaning 'what is the news?' If someone greets you, respond with the principle (Nguzo Saba) for that day:
December 26: Umoja - Unity.
December 27: Kujichagulia - Self-determination.
December 28: Ujima - Collective work and responsibility.
December 29: Ujamaa - Cooperative economics.
December 30: Nia - Purpose.
December 31: Kuumba - Creativity.
January 1: Imani - Faith.
Light the Kinara daily. Since each candle represents a specific principle, they are lit one day at a time, in a certain order. The black candle is always lit first. Some people light the remaining candles from left to right (red to green).
Pick and choose some or all of the following activities throughout the seven days of Kwanzaa, saving the feast for the sixth day:
Drumming and musical selections.
Readings of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness. Discussions on African principles of the day, or recitations of chapters in African history.
The Kwanzaa Karamu (feast) occurs on the sixth day. The Karamu is a very special event that brings everyone closer to their African roots. Held on December 31st it is a collective and cooperative effort. A large Mkeka should be placed in the centre of the floor where the food is placed creatively and made accessible to all to serve themselves.
Before and during the feast, an informative programme should be presented. The programme should involve welcoming, remembrance and rejoicing, concluded by a farewell statement and a call for greater unity. During the feast, libations are to be shared from a communal cup, the Kikombe cha Umoja, should be passed around to all celebrants.
It's time for Kuumba or the gift exchange. Parents and children give gifts on January 1st, the last day of Kwanzaa. Since the giving of gifts has very much to do with creativity, they should be of an educational or artistic nature.