The celebration of Kwanzaa is a means for Afrikan Heritage people to reaffirm their commitment to themselves, their families, their community, and the black struggle for equality.
In the Afrikan continent a harvest can occur all year round in various regions depending on their geographic location and climate. Considering the decision to hold the Diasporan Kwanzaa at the end of December was partly for financial reasons and not agricultural restraints, there is no reason why the Principles of Kwanzaa cannot be celebrated at other times of the year.
There are seven days of Kwanzaa, December 26th through to January 1st. Each day focuses on a specific principle, so there are seven principles. This event is not necessarily called KWANZAA around the Afrikan continent. During the celebrations the community are not supposed to work but being in the diaspora where the vast majority of Afrikan Heritage people are employed by people not of the Afrikan descent we are not in that position where we can just down tools for seven days. A great many more of us would be out of work. Unlike the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish communities for example, they mostly staff employ from their own community and can close whenever their religions dictates whether it be for prayers or a longer celebration of their religions respectively.
It was created in 1966 by M. Ron Karenga.
On his travels to the Motherland he noticed how the communities gathered food and celebrated together.
KWANZAA is derived from the Kiswahili phrase matunda ya kwanzaa which means first fruits of the harvest which is a depiction of the celebration of harvesting the first crops in traditional Afrika. Kwanzaa is an Afrocentric centered institution that is celebrated by people of Afrikan descent in North America, the Caribbean, Europe and other parts of the Afrikan Diaspora.
WHY IN DECEMBER?
Knowing this Karenga decided to hold the North American version during the European Christmas celebration where many have time off work. The decision to hold the Diasporan Kwanzaa from December 26th was taken to help Black families acquire cheaper gifts (Zawadi) for their children in the post Christmas sales in the department stores as the vast majority of Black families were in poverty
( remember this was the 1960s )
This is the traditional Kiswahili diasporan Kwanzaa Greeting!
UMOJA (UNITY) (oo-MOE-jah) -
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
KUJICHAGULIA (SELF DETERMINATION)
(koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
UJIMA (COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY)
(oo-JEE-mah) - To build and maintain our community together and to make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
UJAMAA (COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS) (oo-JAH-mah) -
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit together from them.
NIA (PURPOSE) (nee-AH) -
To make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
KUUMBA (CREATIVITY) (koo-OOM-bah) -
To do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.
IMANI (FAITH) (ee-MAH-nee) -
To believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
The seven candles represent the Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) on which the
First-Born sat up our society in order that our people would get the maximum from it. They are Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA
The Unity Cup symbolizes the first principle of Kwanzaa. It is used to pour the libation for our ancestors; and each member of the immediate family or extended family drinks from it in a reinforcing gesture of honor, praise, collective work and commitment to continue the struggle began by our ancestors.
The ear of corn represents the offspring or product (the children) of the stalk (the father of the house). It signifies the ability or potential of the offsprings, themselves, to become stalks (parents), and thus produce their offspring - a process which goes on indefinitely, and insures the immortality of the Nation. To illustrate this, we use as many ears of corn as we have children which again signifies the number of potential stalks (parents).
The Mkeka is a straw mat on which all the other items are placed. It is a traditional item and therefore symbolizes tradition as the foundation on which all else rests.
The Kinara is a candle-holder which holds seven candles and represents the original stalk from which we all sprang. For it is traditionally said that the First-Born is like a stalk of corn which produces corn, which in turn becomes stalk, which reproduces in the same manner so that there is no ending to us.
Kwanzaa Kiswahili Language Used:
Symbolizes a call to unity and collective work and struggle. The word means "Let's pull together"!
The traditional Kwanzaa greeting in Swahili which basically means "What's the news?" "What's happening?" "Whaa Gwaarn?"
KWA HERI (Kwar Heree)
Swahili term used as an expression of parting with good wishes and an expectancy to meet again.
The presents (gifts) represent 1) the fruits of the labor of the parents, and 2) the rewards of the seeds sown by the children. Parents must commit their children to goodness which to us is beauty. We must commit them to good acts, good thoughts, good grades, etc., for the coming year and reward them according to how well they live up to their commitments. Goodness, again, is beauty and beauty is that which promises happiness to the family and community. For all acts, thoughts and values are invalid if they do not in some way benefit the community.
The feast symbolizes the high festive celebration that brings the community together to exchange and to give thanks to the Creator for their accomplishments during the year. It is held on the night of December 31 and includes food, drink, music, dance, conversation, laughter and ceremony.
Secondary Symbols of Kwanzaa
NGUZO SABA (En-GOO-zoh Sah-BAH)
Symbolizes the seven principles of Kwanzaa which were developed by Maulana Ron Karenga. The Nguzo Saba are social principles dealing with ways for us to relate to each other and rebuild our lives in our own images all year round.
BENDERA YA TAIFA
The flag of Black Nationalism symbolizes the struggle of Liberation. The Red represents the blood of our ancestors; Black is for the collective color of all Black people, and Green reminds us of the land, life and new ideas we must continue to strive to obtain.
Symbolizes the libation by which honor is given in a special way to our ancestors and a call to carry out the struggle and the work they began. It clearly symbolizes the recognition of and respect for the contributions of those before us, our history and the models it offers us to emulate.