Created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach in 1966, Kwanzaa is an annual week-long celebration that is observed from December 26 to January 1.
Following the Watts Riots that took place in LA Dr Karenga was keen to create an event that would unite African-Americans. He wanted African-Americans to have an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history instead of imitation of participation of the dominant society. He founded US, a cultural organization, and started to research African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa.
This celebration is based around seven major principles which are, according to Karenga, a communitarian African philosophy: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. On each of the seven nights of the week long celebration, families gather together and light one of the seven candles of the Kinara. Usually a discussion about the one specific principles takes place.
Kwanzaa also has its own symbols which include: a decorative mat, an ear of corn, crops, the Unity Cup, gifts, the seven candles and candleholder. All the symbols are designed to convey the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
Many African-Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa observe it as ad additional celebration to Christmas.
A fascinating, humbling and thought provoking celebration, why not find out more about this occasion?