EVERYTHING ABOUT KWANZAA...
DEFINITION OF KWANZAA Kwanzaa is a unique African American celebration with
focus on the traditional African values of family, community responsibility,
commerce, and self-improvement. Kwanzaa is neither political nor religious and
despite some misconceptions, is not a substitute for Christmas. It is simply
a time of reaffirming African-American people, their ancestors and culture.
Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits of the harvest" in the African
language Kiswahili, has gained tremendous acceptance. Since its founding in
1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa has come to be observed by more than18
million people worldwide, as reported by the New York Times. When establishing
Kwanzaa in 1966, Dr. Karenga included an additional "a" to the end
of the spelling to reflect the difference between the African American celebration
(kwanzaa) and the Motherland spelling (kwanza).
Kwanzaa is based on the Nguzo Saba (seven guiding principles), one for each day of the observance, and is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st.
Umoja (oo-MO-jah) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family
and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, "I am We,"
or "I am because We are."
Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) Self-Determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.
Ujima (oo-GEE-mah) Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.
Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.
Nia (NEE-yah) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.
Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.
Imani (ee-MAH-nee) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.
CELEBRATING KWANZAA As it is always better to get an early start, I suggest that you begin the first week in December by making a check list for the following items: A Kinara (candle holder); Mkeka (placemat preferably made of straw); Mazao (crops, i.e., fruits and vegetables); Vibunzi/Muhindi (ears of corn to reflect the number of children in the household); Kikombe cha umoja (communal unity cup); Mishumaa saba (seven candles, one black, three red, and three green); and Zawadi (gifts that are enriching).
It is important that the Kinara not be confused with the menorah.* The Kinara holds seven candles to reflect the seven principles which are the foundation of Kwanzaa. If you don't have a Kinara and don't know where to get one, it is suggested that you use "kuumba" (creativity) and make one. A 2x4 or a piece of driftwood will do just fine, and screw-in candle holders can be purchased in most hardware stores. The Mkeka (place mat) shouldn't present a problem. While straw is suggested because it is traditional, cloth makes an adequate substitute. If cloth is used, one with an African print is preferred. The other symbols are easy to come by and warrant no further discussion other than to caution against placing the Mazao (crops)in a cornucopia which is Western. A plain straw basket or a bowl will do just fine. One last note, even households without any children should place an ear of corn on the place mat to symbolize the African concept of social parenthood. All seven symbols are creatively placed on top of the place mat, i.e., the symbols should be attractively arranged as they form the Kwanzaa centerpiece.
DECORATING THE HOME The Kinara along with the other symbols of Kwanzaa should dominate the room, which should be given an African motif. This is easily achieved and shouldn't result in too much expense. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green. This should be kept in mind when decorating the home. Black, red and green streamers, balloons, cloth, flowers, and African prints can be hung tastefully around the room. Original art and sculpture may be displayed as well.
GIFTS Kuumba (creativity) is greatly encouraged. Not only is Kuumba one of the seven principles, it also brings a sense of personal satisfaction and puts one squarely into the spirit of Kwanzaa. Therefore, those symbols that can be made, should be made. The giving of gifts during Kwanzaa should be affordable and of an educational or artistic nature. Gifts are usually exchanged between parents and children and traditionally given on January 1st, the last day of Kwanzaa. However, gift giving during Kwanzaa may occur at any time.
THE KWANZAA FEAST OR KARAMU The Kwanzaa Karumu is traditionally held on December 31st (participants celebrating New Year's Eve, should plan their Karamu early in the evening). It is a very special event as it is the one Kwanzaa event that brings us closer to our African roots. The Karamu is a communal and cooperative effort. Ceremonies and cultural expressions are highly encouraged. It is important to decorate the place where the Karamu will be held, (e.g., home, community center, church) in an African motif that utilizes black, red, and green color scheme. A large Kwanzaa setting should dominate the room where the karamu will take place. A large Mkeka should be placed in the center of the floor where the food should be placed creatively and made accessible to all for self-service. Prior to and during the feast, an informative and entertaining program should be presented. Traditionally, the program involved welcoming, remembering, reassessment, recommitment and rejoicing, concluded by a farewell statement and a call for greater unity.
Below is a suggested format for the Karamu program, from a model by Dr. Karenga.
Introductory Remarks and Recognition of Distinguished Guests and All Elders.
Cultural Expression (Songs, Music, Group Dancing, Poetry, Performances, Unity Circles)
Reflections of a Man, Woman and Child.
Kuchunguza Tena Na Kutoa Ahadi Tena (Reassessment and Recommitment)
Introduction of Distinguished Guest Lecturer and Short Talk.
Tamshi la Tambiko (Libation Statement)
It is tradition to pour libation in remembrance of the ancestors on all special occasions.
Kwanzaa, is such an occasion, as it provides
us an opportunity to reflect on our African past and American present. Water is suggested as it
holds the essence of life and should be placed
in a communal cup and poured in the direction
of the four winds; north, south, east, and west.
It should then be passed among family members
and guests who may either sip from
the cup or make a sipping gesture. LIBATION STATEMENT
For The Motherland cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit
For the elders from whom we can learn much.
For our youth who represent the promise for tomorrow.
For our people the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the creator who provides all things great and small.
. Kikombe Cha Umoja (Unity Cup)
Kutoa Majina (Calling Names of Family Ancestors and Black Heroes)
Tamshi la Tutaonana (The Farewell Statement)
Kwanzaa turns 43 year old this year (2009). Kwanzaa, the alternative to Christmas mainly celebrated by African-Americans, was created in 1966 by Ron Maulana Karenga. Ron Maulana Karenga, a political activist and professor was activist in the "Black Power" movement in the 1960s. Karenga helped found the Black empowerment group "US Organization." Kwanzaa, derives its origins from the African "First Harvest" and was created as way for the African-Americans to connect to their traditions rooted in African and to common humanist principles. Kwanzaa is based on seven principles each with a Swahili name Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together. Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Kuumba (Creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. Kwanzaa was originally meant as alternative to Christmas. Karenga, who was also a convicted felon, saw Christmas as a "white" holiday that blacks should reject. Since then Karenga and the celebration he spawned have evolved into a more complimentary celebration, occurring from December 26th - January 1. Though some say Kwanzaa is a manufactured holiday it is now firmly established as a, mainly, American tradition. Recent research shows that over 4.5 million Americans celebrate Kwanzaa
Learn about Kwanzaa, the world's fastest growing holiday, with these activities and Internet links.
Habari Gani? Those Swahili words, meaning What's the News?, may soon become as familiar a holiday message as Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy New Year. For Habari Gani? is the ritual greeting of Kwanzaa and Kwanzaa is the world's fastest growing holiday.
This year, more than 20 million people are expected to celebrate Kwanzaa, a non-religious event honoring African-American culture and community. The holiday was created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, an African-American scholar and activist. Discouraged by the civil rights struggles of the 1960's and dismayed by the 1965 Watts riots, Karenga based the ceremonies of Kwanzaa around the belief that lasting social change for black Americans would only come about through reacquainting African-Americans with their cultural heritage and uniting them in a spirit of family and community.
SEVEN DAYS, SEVEN PRINCIPLES, SEVEN SYMBOLS
Kwanzaa's seven days of celebration, which begin on December 26 and end on January 1, focus on seven principles or goals: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). The ultimate goal is that those principles, reviewed and reinforced during Kwanzaa, will become a way of life throughout the entire year.
The word Kwanzaa is derived from Swahili words meaning "first fruits of the harvest," and the holiday includes many elements of traditional African harvest celebrations. The most important symbols of Kwanzaa are:
the mishumaa -- seven candles (3 red, 3 green, 1 black), standing for Kwanzaa's
the kinara -- a candleholder, representing the stalk of corn from which the family grows
the mkeka -- a straw placemat, recalling tradition and history
the mazao -- a variety of fruit, symbolizing the harvest
the vibunzi -- an ear of corn for each child, celebrating the child's potential
the kikombe cha umoja -- a cup of unity, commemorating one's ancestors
the zawadi -- modest gifts, encouraging creativity, achievement, and success
On each of the seven nights of Kwanzaa, celebrants gather to light the candles and share their thoughts about that day's principle. Each gathering includes discussions and activities representing Kwanzaa's five fundamental concepts:
unity of family, friends, and community
reverence for the creator and creation, which encompasses an appreciation of, and respect for, the environment
commemoration of the past, which includes honoring one's ancestors and valuing one's heritage
commitment to the cultural ideals of the African community, which include truth, justice, and mutual respect
a celebration of the "Good of Life" and appreciation for the blessings of achievement, family, and community
The most joyous and elaborate of Kwanzaa's gatherings takes place on December 31, the 6th day of the holiday period. On that night, a great feast (karamu) is held. Families and friends gather to eat, drink, sing, dance, and read stories and poems celebrating their cultural heritage. Everyone sips from the unity cup and many people exchange gifts.
(The Seven Principles)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
The Symbols of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two supplemental ones. Each represents values and concepts reflective of African culture and contributive to community building and reinforcement. The basic symbols in Swahili and then in English are:
Mazao (The Crops)
These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.
Mkeka (The Mat)
This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.
Kinara (The Candle Holder)
This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.
Muhindi (The Corn)
This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.
Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles)
These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.
Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup)
This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.
Zawadi (The Gifts)
These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.
The two supplemental symbols are:
Bendera (The Flag)
The colors of the Kwanzaa flag are the colors of the Organization Us, black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. It is based on the colors given by the Hon. Marcus Garvey as national colors for African people throughout the world.
Kwanzaa Meditation - Yoruba prayer
K'a má fi kánjú j'aiyé.
K'a má fi wàrà-wàrà n'okùn orò.
Ohun à bâ if s'àgbà,
K'a má if se'binu.
Bi a bá de'bi t'o tútù,
K'a wò'wajú ojo lo titi;
K'a tun bò wá r'èhìn oràn wo;
Nitori àti sùn ara eni ni.
Let us not engage the world hurriedly.
Let us not grasp at the rope of wealth impatiently.
That which should be treated with mature judgment,
Let us not deal with in a state of anger.
When we arrive at a cool place,
Let us rest fully;
Let us give continuous attention to the future;
and let us give deep consideration to the consequences of things.
And this because of our (eventual) passing.
The Odu Ifa