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Kwanzaa History

The holiday known as Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26- January 1. It is a non-religious observation and focuses on the African-American view of community, culture, and family. 'Kwanzaa' is a derived Swahili term meaning 'first fruits'. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 in an attempt to unite the African American community following the Watts riots in Los Angeles.

At the time, Karenga was a professor of Black Studies at California State University in Long Beach. He had begun researching various ancient African harvest celebrations and their aspects; blending those of different groups to form the foundation of Kwanzaa.

Families celebrate Kwanzaa in their own way, incorporating songs, African drums, dances, poetry readings, storytelling, and traditional meals. For each of the seven nights that are honored, a candle is lit on a Kinara, or candle holder, starting in the middle. The Kinara is one of seven symbols to represent Kwanzaa. They also include Mazao (fruits and vegetables), Mkeka (mat), and Mishumaa Saba (seven candles). Muhindi (ears of corn) represents the children in the family and community. Zawadi (gifts) are primarily for children, but other family members can also receive them. They should include a book and a heritage symbol to reemphasize the value of education and reaffirm the importance of culture and tradition. Finally, the Kikombe Cha Umoja (unity cup) is used to pour libation for the ancestors and it is drunk from as a ritual to reinforce unity in the family and community. The symbols are placed on the Mkeka and displayed on a table or elsewhere in the house.

The seven candles include one black, for all Black people, three red, representing their struggle, and three green, to symbolize hope and the future. Each night, one of seven principles is discussed. These seven principles, known as Nguzo Saba, represent cultural values within the African-American community. They are talked about in a specific order following the lighting of the candle each night;

•Unity - (Umoja)
•Self-determination - (Kujichagulia)
•Collective work and responsibility - (Ujima)
•Cooperative Economics - (Ujamaa)
•Purpose - (Nia)
•Creativity - (Kuumba)
•Faith - (Imani)

It is estimated that 18 million Africans will celebrate Kwanzaa around the world this year, including festivities in America, the Caribbean, South America, Brazil, Canada, India, and various European countries.

Kwanzaa Celebrated December 26 and continues until New Years Day, January 1st.