Joyous Kwanzaa

Founded by Dr Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa runs from December 26 to January 1. It is inspired by the First Fruits Festivals celebrated by the Nguni peoples of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and Swaziland; as well as Juneteenth (June 19, Freedom Day) celebrating the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865.

Kwanzaa (Swahili for first fruits) celebrates the 7 principles of African heritage (Nguzo Saba) : Umoja Unity, Kujichagulia Self-determination, Ujima Collective Work and Responsibility, Ujamaa Cooperative Economics, Nia Purpose, Kuumba Creativity, Imani Faith.

During the week-long celebration of Kwanzaa, seven candles are placed in the kinara (Swahili for candle holder) – 3 red on the left, 3 green on the right, and a single black candle in the center. The black candle is lit first, then each day it alternates between red and green, each candle representing the principle of the day.

Special symbols and decorations are used, certain clothing is worn, there is drumming, music is played, readings related to the day’s principle are discussed, and Kwanzaa foods and drinks are shared. After 53 years, Kwanzaa is now celebrated not only in the United States, but also in Canada, parts of Europe, Jamaica and Brazil.

To those who celebrate, I wish you a Joyous Kwanzaa!

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