How Do People Celebrate Kwanzaa ?
Kwanzaa is a non-religious festival celebrated by African Americans. Dr. Malaune Karenga established this festival in 1966 to unite the blacks and inspire them to work together. It does not symbolize or signify any one particular religion. In fact, it is a universal celebration where people highlight the importance of living in a peaceful and productive manner to benefit the society. It is celebrated for 7 days, from December 26 to January 1.
The celebrations are predominantly African in origin. A traditional seven candleholder called kinara is placed on a straw mat called mkeka. Fresh fruits and vegetables are placed on the mkeka. Muhindi (fresh or dried ears of corn) are also placed on the mat. The traditional colors of the festival are red, black and green. People decorate the interiors and exteriors of their house with these colors. Red symbolizes the struggle, green the future and hope after the struggle and black symbolizes their skin color.
A black candle is placed in the middle of the candleholder. Three red and green candles are placed on either side respectively. The red candles have to be lit first and the green candles in the end, one for each day totaling up to seven days in all. One candle is lit every day. The family members discuss one principle of the festival each day. There are seven principles in total for seven different days. The principles are:
- Umoja: Unity
- Kuji-chagulia: Self-determination
- Ujima: Collective work and responsibility
- Ujamaa: Cooperative economics
- Nia: Purpose
- Kuumba: Creativity
- Imani: Faith
After discussing each principle, a customary African meal is prepared and eaten. Zawadi or gifts are presented to children by their parents.
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