Kwanzaa - celebrating the best of what it means to be African

Kwanzaa 2020 in United States will begin on Saturday, December 26 and ends on Friday, January 1, 2021.

Created in 1966 after the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa as a way to bring African Americans together as a community. 

Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. 

The 2020 annual Kwanzaa theme is: “Kwanzaa and the Well-Being of the World: Living and Uplifting the Seven Principles.” Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle and each day a candle is lit on the kinara (candleholder). The seven principles represent seven values of African culture that help build and reinforce community among African-Americans. Click here to learn more about each of the 7 principles and 7 core symbols.

There is a traditionally established way of celebrating Kwanzaa. First, you should come to the celebration with a profound respect for its values, symbols and practices and do nothing to violate its integrity, beauty and expansive meaning. Secondly, you should not mix the Kwanzaa holiday or its symbols, values and practice with any other culture. Thirdly, choose the best and most beautiful items to celebrate Kwanzaa. This means taking time to plan and select the most beautiful objects of art, colorful African cloth, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. so that every object used represents African culture and your commitment to the holiday in the best of ways.

The last day of Kwanzaa is the first day of the new year, January 1. Historically this has been for African people a time of sober assessment of things done and things to do, of self-reflection and reflection on the life and of recommitment to their highest cultural values through the consideration of three questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Am I really who I say I am?
  • Am I all I ought to be?

Wonderful questions for all of us to reflect on.

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