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Kwanza(both: kwän`zə), secular seven-day festival in celebration of the African heritage of African Americans, beginning on Dec. 26. Developed by Maulana Karenga and first observed in 1966, Kwanzaa is based in part on traditional African harvest festivals but particularly emphasizes the role of the family and community in African-American culture. Each day is dedicated to a particular principle (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), and on each day one of the candles on a seven-branched candelabrum is lighted. The celebration also includes the giving of gifts and a karamu, or African feast.
Kwanzaa(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Many people seem to think Kwanzaa is an ancient African holiday—another religious festival trying to get on the "holiday season" bandwagon. But Kwanzaa has only been around since 1966 and is not really African, although its symbols revolve around African motifs and the name is derived from the Swahili word that means "first fruits."
Kwanzaa is the brainchild of Dr. Maulana Karenga, the founder and present chair of the Black Nationalist Organization. He felt that significant advances among African Americans could not occur in the United States unless they happened within the context of a cultural base. If people are going to be moved, they need a sense of, in his words, "identity, purpose, and direction." It is not practical to think that will happen if your heritage and allegiance is to a nation that had enslaved your grandparents. The focus has to be on the future—what can happen instead of what did happen.
Kwanzaa is filled with symbols derived from Africa, but its purpose goes far beyond national remembrance. Through participation of Kwanzaa celebrations, African Americans come to understand their ancestral images, but the idea is to include people everywhere.
First Fruits originally was a holiday when African people would gather to celebrate the coming harvest. Most African Americans are urban dwellers and don't have many crops to harvest. But the joy of the season can be felt just the same. Seven principles are celebrated, and they are applied universally. Beginning on December 26th each year and continuing until January 1st, a candle is lit each day. Each candle symbolizes one of the Nguao Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Umoja (Unity). The object of this principle is to strive for wholeness in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia (Self Determination). The goal on this day is to seek definition, to create and speak for yourself rather than to allow others to speak for you. Ujima (Responsibility). Here the emphasis is on maintaining community, to shoulder the responsibility for the problems of others and work together to solve them. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). The object of this day is to work toward building and maintaining local stores, shops, and businesses so the community profits together. Nia (Purpose). The ultimate purpose of Kwanzaa is now in sight. It is to collectively work toward the development of community in order to restore the community to its traditional greatness. Kuumba (Creativity). Here the emphasis is on elevating the community, making it greater, more beautiful, and more beneficial each year. Imani (Faith). The object here is to place trust in parents, teachers, leaders, and others, and also to strive for righteousness and its ultimate victory.
Dr. Karenga hoped that the new holiday, based on principles and symbols associated with African harvest festivals, would provide an ethnic celebration all African Americans could observe, regardless of religious affiliation. He also sought to create a holiday that emphasized communal and spiritual values, rather than the materialism he found rampant in American Christmas celebrations (see also Commercialism).
Karenga created the word "Kwanzaa" from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits." Many African first fruits celebrations, or harvest festivals, last between seven and nine days. Accordingly, Karenga decided to have the new American festival continue for seven days. He added the extra "a" to the Swahili word kwanza so that the name of the new holiday, Kwanzaa, would contain seven letters.
Karenga selected seven principles from among the values most commonly held in high esteem by the peoples of Africa and honored in their harvest celebrations. One of the seven principles of Kwanzaa is celebrated on each of the seven days of the festival. The seven principles include umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). Kwanzaa celebrations also feature a seven-branched candleholder called a kinara. The kinara holds red, green, and black candles - colors symbolic of African identity. One candle is lit on each of the seven nights. On December 31 celebrants participate in a communal feast. On January 1, the last day of the festival, modest gifts are exchanged.
Since its founding in 1966 Kwanzaa has steadily grown in popularity. One researcher has estimated that over 18 million Americans observe Kwanzaa each year. Millions more are thought to celebrate the festival in Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe.
Henderson, Helene, and Sue Ellen Thompson, eds. Holidays, Festivals, andCelebrations of the World Dictionary. Second edition. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1997. Karenga, Maulana. The African-American Holiday of Kwanzaa. Los Angles, Calif.: University of Sankore Press, 1988. Santino, Jack. All Around the Year. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1994. Thompson, Sue Ellen, ed. Holiday Symbols. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1998.
Location: Communities and homes nationwide
The seven-day Kwanzaa holiday is observed by millions of African Americans as well as by people of African descent worldwide. It was created to be a holiday for black Americans to honor and celebrate their African heritage and also serve as an alternative to Christmas. Celebrations take place in homes and communities from December 26 through January 1.
Although Kwanzaa is a relatively recent African-American holiday that has spread worldwide, its customs and symbols are said to be rooted in ancient Africa. The name itself - Kwanzaa - comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, or "first fruits." The extra "a" at the end of Kwanzaa was added to indicate that the term stood for an African-American celebration. First fruits refers to the ancient tradition of harvest festivals in Africa that celebrate the first crops of the season.
The Kwanzaa holiday has gone far beyond the founder's creation. It began as a way to reject white culture and focus on African traditions and black power, but has become a holiday that emphasizes bringing people together and appreciating African culture and heritage. In the United States Kwanzaa is embraced by a broad range of African Americans, educational and religious institutions, museums, corporations, the media, and federal and state governments.
Creation of the Holiday
Maulana Karenga, a professor of Black Studies at California State University at Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966 in order to establish a holiday controlled by blacks and especially for people of African descent. He hoped to bolster the bonds between African Americans and Africa. Karenga was given the name Ronald McKinley Everett when he was born in 1941 in Maryland. After moving to California to go to college, he earned a degree at Los Angeles City College and began his work on a doctorate at the University of California, but dropped out to take part in the Black Power Movement in the 1960s, a time of racial unrest and upheaval. He eventually earned a doctorate in political science at the U.S. International University and a doctorate in social ethics from the University of Southern California.
As a 1960s radical black nationalist, he took the name Maulana Karenga and supported Malcolm X and the concepts of black power (see also Malcolm X's Birthday). He also created an organization known as US or Us, whose mission was and is to liberate blacks from white oppression. He and members of US were involved in violent activities that resulted in Karenga's imprisonment in 1971. Several years after his release in 1974, he was hired to the faculty of the Black Studies Department at California State University at Long Beach. Karenga has continued his involvement with US, which promotes Kwanzaa through its web site, and with a publishing arm in Los Angeles called University of Sankore Press.
To symbolize Kwanzaa, Karenga chose the colors black, red, and green, which were used decades earlier by Marcus Garvey to represent black nationalism (see also Marcus Garvey's Birthday). According to Karenga in a 1998 interview with Ebony, "Black is for Black people, first. . . . red is for struggle, and green is for the future and the promise that comes from struggle."
Candles in black, red, and green are an important part of any observance of Kwanzaa. They are usually displayed in a seven-tiered candelabra called a kinara, with one black candle in the middle, three red candles on the right and three green ones on the left. Together, these candles are known as the mishumaa saba (seven candles). A candle is lit each night of the holiday to represent Kwanzaa's seven basic principles called nguzo saba. Each night of the week-long celebration is dedicated to one of those principles. Umojo (ooMO-jah) or Unity is represented by the black candle. Three principles are represented by red candles: Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) or Self-determination; Ujima (oo-GEEmah) or Collective Work and Responsibility; and Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) or Cooperative Economics. The remaining principles represented by green candles are Nia (nee-YAH) or Purpose; Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) or Creativity; and Imani (ee-MAH-nee) or Faith.
Each African-American household may celebrate Kwanzaa in its own way, but there is usually a display of symbolic objects on a table covered with a colorful cloth in African designs. A mkeke or straw place mat is the foundation (representing African heritage) for the kinara and other meaningful items: muhindi, ears of corn that represent all children of the community, not just the immediate family; and kikombe cha umoja, a unity cup which holds a libation, or liquid, to recall and welcome ancestral spirits (all present may sip from the cup). Mazao - fruits and vegetables in a bowl made of natural materials - is likely to be on the table to represent the harvest. And zawadi (gifts) of books and other educational materials about African culture also may be displayed.
When a Kwanzaa family celebration takes place, it begins on the first night - December 26 - by placing the seven candles in the holder and lighting the black candle for unity. Author Antoinette Broussard explains her family's tradition after the first night in her book African-American Celebrations and Holiday Traditions (2004):
On the second night of Kwanzaa, the family gathers and the black candle for unity is lit along with the red candle for self-determination. . . .On the third evening . . . the black candle and the red candle...and the green candle for collective work and responsibility [are lit]. This sequence of lighting the candles and discussing the principle of the day extends through the seven days of Kwanzaa. . . .The discussion each evening centers around what that day's particular principle means to each individual, and how each has applied it in his or her life. All the participants commit to practice that particular principle throughout the coming year.
Some families observe at least one evening of Kwanzaa with relatives - perhaps several generations of a family - or with friends. Educational or handmade gifts may be presented to the children, and on December 31st especially, Kwanzaa observers enjoy a feast.
Foods for Kwanzaa
Foods prepared for a Kwanzaa feast frequently are linked to traditional dishes of the African diaspora, from African-American soul foods to those from the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. In recent years, recipes for dishes and desserts to serve at a Kwanzaa feast have been published in newspapers, magazines, and books, or posted on the Internet. Some of the items served include (but certainly are not limited to):
Roast turkey Fried chicken Sweet potato dishes/pies Cornbread Collard greens Southern-style green beans Black-eyed peas Potato salad Southern-fried okra African vegetarian stew Red beans and rice Benne cakes Pecan pie Peanut soup Biscuits Lemonade
City and Community Celebrations
Across the United States, as well as in other countries, cities and communities may set aside the week, or a day or two, to observe Kwanzaa and include people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, although the celebration remains Afrocentric. In Chicago, Illinois, one of the largest celebrations in the nation takes place at Malcolm X College. In 1995 the president of the college, Zerrie D. Campbell, spearheaded the first Kwanzaa celebration. It is a joint endeavor with Chicago's Afrocentric school called Shule Ya Watoto. During the week the Kwanzaa celebration includes African-inspired ceremonies, music and dance, fashion show, African marketplace, and traditional African foods.
The Kwanzaa Capital City Festival is a one-day celebration in Richmond, Virginia. It is presented by the Elegba Folklore Society, a nonprofit organization that promotes activities focusing on African-American culture. The name of the organization comes from Esu Elegbara (AY-shew eh-lehg-bah-rah), a deity or saint in the west African Yoruba tradition who is the guardian of the crossroads and keeps people connected. Since 1990, the festival has been a celebration of the holiday - not the holiday itself. It draws three to four thousand people and has featured an African market, children's craft making, dance performances, and poets. In 2005, Harlem's The Last Poets appeared, blending spokenword poetry with African percussion.
In New York, the American Museum of Natural History holds a Kwanzaa celebration over three days. It includes activities for the entire family, such as African folklore performances, workshops, a marketplace, and Kwanzaa foods in the Museum's Cafe 77 and Food Court.
The Kwanzaa Heritage Festival in Los Angeles, California, begins with a colorful parade. The two-day festival features African dance groups, drumming, poetry and folktale performances, a children's village, and an international food court.
Wherever Kwanzaa celebrations are held, it is common for many participants to wear kente cloth, a traditional African garment. Kente cloth originated in Ghana during the 12th century and was once worn only by kings and queens for special ceremonies. Weavers made the cloth out of four-inch wide strips in complex designs and bright colors; the strips were woven together to make garments of various sizes.
African Americans now wear kente cloth, sometimes as a shawl or as a full-length wrap, to show pride in their African heritage. Head ties, which also are part of traditional African attire, may be worn by African-American women during Kwanzaa as well.
As Kwanzaa celebrations have spread across the United States, many merchants have reported that sales of items for the holiday have been in great demand, such as candles, candle holders, mats, cloths with African designs, and books and games about Kwanzaa. Although such items are part of family celebrations, they are also used in schools, libraries, museums, religious institutions, and other public places during educational programs about the holiday. In addition, a variety of videos, coloring books, e-cards, printed greeting cards, clip art, crafts, and software related to Kwanzaa are being advertised and sold on the Internet. With all of these varied products being marketed, some Kwanzaa participants worry that commercialization will diminish the values of the holiday. Others contend that the proliferation of Kwanzaa items can help create public awareness of African culture, heritage, and pride.
In 1999 the U.S. Postal Service issued the first Kwanzaa stamp. In 2004, a new first-class postage stamp featuring Kwanzaa was issued by the Postal Service at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois. Artists who created the design endeavored to balance formality with a celebratory, festive mood. Seven figures in colorful robes represent the seven days of Kwanzaa, and the seven principles they signify.
Contacts and Web Sites
American Museum of Natural History Central Park W. at 79th St. New York, NY 10024 212-769-5000
Capital City Kwanzaa Festival 101 E. Broad St. Richmond, VA 23219 804-644-3900; fax: 804-644-3919
Kwanzaa Heritage Foundation Leimert Park Village Los Angeles, CA 90008 213-955-5239
Malcolm X College 1900 W. Van Buren Chicago, IL 60612 312-850-7000
Official Kwanzaa Web Site African American Cultural Center 3018 W. 48th St. Los Angeles, CA 90043-1335 323-299-6124; fax: 323-299-0261
Anyike, James C. African American Holidays: A Historical Research and Resource Guide to Cultural Celebrations . Chicago: Popular Truth, 1991. Barashango, Ishakamusa. African People and European Holidays: A Mental Genocide, Book 1 . Washington, DC: IVth Dynasty Publishing Company, 1979. Broussard, Antoinette. African-American Celebrations and Holiday Traditions: Cele- brating with Passion, Style, and Grace . New York: Citadel Press, 2004. Brown, Scot. Fighting for US: Maulana Karenga, the US Organization, and Black Cul- tural Nationalism. New York: New York University Press, 2003. Collier, Adore. "The Man Who Invented Kwanzaa." Ebony, January 1998. Eklof, Barbara. For Every Season: The Complete Guide to African American Celebra- tions, Traditional to Contemporary . New York: HarperCollins, 1997. Karenga, Maulana. Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press, 1998. Riley, Dorothy Winbush. The Complete Kwanzaa: Celebrating Our Cultural Harvest. New York: Perennial, 1996.
Date of Observation: December 26 - January 1
Where Celebrated: United States, Canada, Caribbean, and parts of Europe
Symbols and Customs: Candle Holder (Kinara), Corn (Muhindi), Crops (Mazao), Gifts (Zawadi), Mat (Mkeka), Seven Candles (Mishumaa Saba), Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba), Unity Cup (Kikombe Cha Umoja)
Colors: Kwanzaa is associated with red, black, and green-the colors of the national flag or bendara of the African-American people as designed by Marcus Garvey, father of the modern Black nationalist movement. Red symbolizes the continuing struggle of the African-American people, black is symbolic of their faces, and green stands for their hopes and aspirations for the future.
Related Holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah
The name of this holiday comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits." It was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a UCLA professor from Nigeria. After the August 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles, Dr. Karenga, at that time a graduate student, felt that his people had lost touch with their African heritage. After completing his Ph.D., he began teaching AfricanAmerican history and studied the culture of the Yorubas, Igbos, Ashantis, Zulus, and other African tribes. All of these tribes celebrated some type of harvest festival (see NEW YAM FESTIVAL), during which they remembered their ancestors, celebrated their good fortune, and made their plans for the coming year. Using this as his model, Dr. Karenga decided to create a cultural holiday that African Americans of all faiths could celebrate and that would shift their attention away from CHRISTMAS and other traditional "white" holidays. Dr. Karenga added a second "a" to the Swahili word meaning "first" so that the name of this newly created holiday would have seven letters-a number possessing great symbolic value in many African cultures. He also made it a seven-day celebration, not only because most of the other first fruits festivals lasted between seven and nine days, but because each day could then be dedicated to one of the SEVEN PRINCIPLES .
Among the activities associated with the celebration of Kwanzaa is the pouring of the tambiko or libation for the ancestors; the Harambee, which is a raised-arm gesture combined with a verbal call, the general meaning of which is "Let's all pull together"; and the lighting of the mishumaa saba or SEVEN CANDLES . Central to every Kwanzaa celebration is the mkeka or MAT , on which are arranged various symbolic items such as CORN , CROPS , a CANDLE HOLDER , and the UNITY CUP . A communal feast or Karamu is held on the night of December 31, to which each participating family contributes a particular dish-usually made from okra, sesame seeds, black-eyed peas, peanuts, or other foods that African slaves brought to the United States. Before and during the feast, there is a program that combines information about African customs, traditions, and symbols with entertainment. The seventh and last day of Kwanzaa is also a time for opening GIFTS and thinking of ways to make the coming year better-not unlike the resolutions that other Americans make on NEW YEAR'S DAY. Many African Americans wear African-style clothing during the Kwanzaa celebration. The women may wear a buba or loose-fitting gown, or a robe with a scarf at the waist called a busuti. Some women cover their hair with a gele or head wrap. Men may wear a shirt called a dashiki, or a long robe known as a kanza. Kwanzaa shares many values and customs with the African harvest festivals from which it was derived. It is a time to strengthen the bonds among people, just as the harvest was an occasion to gather together and to give thanks to the Creator for a bountiful life. It is also a time for African Americans to honor their roots and heritage and to commemorate the struggles and survival of their people. Above all, it is a time to reassess their own lives and the lives of their communities and to recommit themselves to certain cultural ideals.
SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS
Candle Holder (Kinara)
The kinara or seven-branched candle holder used in the celebration of Kwanzaa started out as a symbol of Nkulunkulu, the first ancestor and father of the African people. Nkulunkulu was referred to as the "corn stalk" that produced the "corn"-i.e., that went on to multiply as the African people. But now it has come to symbolize the African ancestors as a collective whole.
As one of the fundamental foods grown in Africa, corn has always been central to African agriculture and society. The life cycle of corn is regarded as a symbol of the human life cycle. Along with the "stalk" or kinara (see CANDLE HOLDER ), therefore, the corn used in Kwanzaa celebrations symbolizes the relationship between parents and children and between ancestors and their descendants.
Each family places as many ears of corn in the Kwanzaa display as there are children in the family. But even in households where there are no children, there is always at least one ear of corn. This is because in African society, parenthood is both biological and social. In other words, even individuals who are not personally responsible for children have a social responsibility for the children of the community. Kwanzaa is a time for reaffirming this responsibility.
The mazao is a bowl of fruits and vegetables that represents the harvest. Because it refers back to the roots of the celebration in African agricultural festivals, it is considered the most important of the symbols displayed on the Kwanzaa MAT or mkeka. It symbolizes the rewards of collective and productive labor.
When Kwanzaa was first established, there was some discussion over whether gift-giving should be a part of the celebration. There was a strong feeling that the kind of gift-giving associated with CHRISTMAS-which often involves spending money to impress or punish the receiver rather than to express love and bring pleasure-should be avoided. At the same time, it was recognized that gifts were symbolic of the fruits of labor, and that African gift-giving traditionally focused on items that were either made or grown.
In the end, it was decided that Kwanzaa gifts would be different. They would be instructive and inspirational and would be linked to the needs of the African people and their struggle. Rather than relying on a Santa Claus-like figure who promises things that parents cannot always deliver, Kwanzaa gift-giving would underscore the hard work and sacrifice involved in providing children with gifts. The presents would not be purchased until after Christmas was over, and they would be given only to children. To avoid the shopping frenzy and undisciplined spending associated with Christmas, the gifts would be equal in value to the children's achievements.
Kwanzaa gifts may be exchanged at any time, but they are usually opened on January 1, the last day of the celebration. Most are educational or inspirational items-for example, books by or about Africa or African Americans, tickets to African-American cultural events, or works by African-American artists. Favorite gifts include African games and toys, handmade clothes and accessories, and ethnic dolls. No gift should be purchased if it causes financial hardship for the giver, and the emphasis is on homemade rather than store-bought items.
Despite all the efforts that have been made to avoid the commercialization associated with CHRISTMAS, today Kwanzaa cards and wrapping paper are sold in the stores, along with specially manufactured Kwanzaa gifts such as teddy bears dressed in African costumes.
The woven straw mat or mkeka on which all of the other Kwanzaa symbols are placed serves as a "foundation" for these items, just as tradition and history are the foundations necessary for self-knowledge and understanding of the AfricanAmerican people. There is an old African proverb that says "No matter how high a house is built, it must stand on something." In a symbolic sense, the mkeka provides such a foundation.
Seven Candles (Mishumaa Saba)
Seven candles are placed in the kinara or candle holder: one black, three red, and three green-the colors of the national flag of the African-American people. The black candle is placed in the center of the kinara, while the red ones are placed on the left and the green ones on the right. Each day, a candle is lit to symbolize one of the SEVEN PRINCIPLES . The person who lights it then explains what it stands for, and this becomes the main topic of discussion for that day.
The black candle in the center represents the unity of the African-American people, which is the first of the Seven Principles. Beginning with the second day, candles are lit on the left and right alternately. Because red symbolizes struggle and green represents hope for the future, this method of lighting the candles underscores the message that there can be no future without a struggle. Each candle that has been lit before is relit along with the candle of the day, until all seven are burning on the last day of the festival.
The lighting of the seven candles is a daily ritual, similar to that of lighting the menorah during HANUKKAH, that symbolizes both the illumination of the S EVEN P RINCIPLES and the ancient African concept of "raising up light" to dispel the darkness in both a spiritual and intellectual sense.
Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba)
One of the reasons that Dr. Karenga created Kwanzaa was to introduce and reinforce what are known as the Seven Principles or Nguzo Saba, defined as the values needed to build and sustain the African-American family, community, and culture. These principles are: (1) Unity (umoja), (2) Self-determination (kujichagulia), (3) Collective work and responsibility (ujima), (4) Cooperative economics (ujamma), (5) Purpose (nia), (6) Creativity (kuumba), and (7) Faith (imani).
Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the seven principles. Every evening during the festival, families gather together to discuss the principle to which that day has been dedicated and to light the candle (see SEVEN CANDLES ) that symbolizes that principle. The Seven Principles are also described on a poster that is displayed during the celebration of Kwanzaa.
Unity Cup (Kikombe Cha Umoja)
The Unity Cup is part of the arrangement of symbolic objects displayed on the MAT or mkeka throughout the seven days of Kwanzaa. It serves two basic functions: (1) it is used to pour the tambiko, which is usually wine or grape juice accompanied by a "libation statement" or tamshi la tambiko in honor of the ancestors; and (2) it is passed around so that everyone can drink from it, a symbolic ritual designed to reinforce unity in the family and the African-American community. Pouring the tambiko and making a libation statement is a way of honoring the ancestors and reaffirming the link between them and their living African-American descendants.
After the cup has been passed around and is placed back on the table, the kutoa majina begins, which is the calling-out of the names of family ancestors. When the last name has been called, a drummer plays African-style rhythms, which is the signal for the start of the feast or karamu. The feast is followed by singing, dancing, and storytelling. The final evening of the celebration concludes with a Farewell Statement (tamshi la tutaonana) composed by Dr. Karenga. Then everyone shouts "Harambee!" seven times, and Kwanzaa is over.
Gay, Kathlyn. African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2007. Gulevich, Tanya. Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations. 2nd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2003. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Karenga, Maulana. The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press, 1988. McClester, Cedric. Kwanzaa: Everything You Always Wanted to Know but Didn't Know Where to Ask. 30th anniversary edition. New York: Gumbs and Thomas, 1997. Medearis, Angela S. The Seven Days of Kwanzaa. New York: Scholastic, 1994. Santino, Jack. All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. Schmidt, Leigh Eric. Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.
Official Kwanzaa Web Site www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org
In Swahili, Kwanzaa means "first fruits of the harvest," and first-fruit practices common throughout Africa were adapted by Karenga for the celebration.
Each day of the seven-day festival is dedicated to one of seven principles: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith).
Families gather in the evenings to discuss the principle of the day, and then light a black, red, or green candle and place it in a seven-branched candleholder called a kinara to symbolize giving light and life to the principle. On the evening of Dec. 31, families join with other members of the community for a feast called the karamu . Decorations are in the red, black, and green that symbolize Africa, and both adults and children wear African garments.
Increasingly, colleges and museums are holding Kwanzaa events during some of the days. For example, in Chicago, an African Market is held on Dec. 28 by the Ujamma Family, a black self-help group. In New York City, the American Museum of Natural History celebrates Kwanzaa with an African Marketplace, poetry, folktales, and music.
Kwanzaa, African American Cultural Center
3018 W. 48th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90043
323-299-6124; fax: 323-299-0261
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