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5 Ways to Celebrate Kwanzaa

Updated on December 27, 2010

Kwanzaa, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga and celebrated from December 26 through January 1, reflects an ancient tradition of first harvest celebrations, and is a time for "ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration." The celebration was created in part to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people. It was designed to be an ingathering to strengthen community and reaffirm common identity, purpose and direction as a people and a world community. Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one so it is available to and practiced by Africans of all religious faiths.

Kwanzaa promotes the seven following principles called Nguzo Saba:

1) Umoja (unity)

2) Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)

3) Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)

4) Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)

5) Nia (Purpose)

6) Kuumba (Creativity)

7) Imani (Faith)

This stress on the Nguzo Saba is an emphasis on the importance of African communitarian values in general, which stress family, community and culture and speak to the best of what it means to be African in the fullest sense. They are a foundational value system for building family, community and maintaining culture.

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate Kwanzaa

1. Griots and djembes:

Invite Afrakan storytellers, musicians, and artists to your gathering to inspire your guests as they eat aperitifs and mingle.

2. Take Kwanzaa on the road:

On each day of Kwanzaa get together with your friends, coworkers or gather up the little ones to demonstrate that particular principle for the benefit of others. For example, on the day of Ujima promote a clothing & canned food drive door to door in your neighborhood to benefit underprivileged youth or the elderly of your community. Remember to wear traditional African garb, and say "asante sana" after they load up your baskets.

3. Our ancestors - the firsts to reap any harvest:

There would be no harvest for us without the hard work of those who nourished our parents, grandparents and so on in order for our families to continue. Honor the efforts and challenges of our forbearers by fasting on only fruit and water from noon to sunset each day. On the final day, walk in silence with your family to a body of water and offer fruit as you all call out the names of cherished loved ones who came before.

4. Wisdom of the old ways:

In many African traditions, a child's purpose and challenges are determined while it is still in it's mother's womb. This way the family can prepare to give that child what it needs to succeed and fulfill it's mission. It is never too late to realign with one's purpose. On the day of Nia, consider having a qualified priest/ess perform a reading for each of your family's members and for the family as a whole. Take heed of and take pride in the wisdom you gain.

5. A feast fit for royally:

On the final day, have a grand feast featuring traditional African foods and preparations. After dinner, watch an African-centerd film like Quilombo or a Warm December. Listen to the music of Fela Kuti or Miriam Makeba. Enjoy each other as you light the final candle and committ to another year of cultural, familial and community-wide adherence to the Nguzo Saba.

Remember to set up your Kwanzaa alter. See link below for the procedure.

Sherekea limbuka!

Enjoy the fruits of your celebration!

Celebrate and learn more:

Kwanzaa Mask Candleholder & Celebration Set - Made in Ghana
Kwanzaa Mask Candleholder & Celebration Set - Made in Ghana

All the key ingredients to celebrate Kwanzaa in style

Set includes Kinara, cup, Set of 7 candles , mat and information sheet.

Candles are 12"H

Set beautifully shrink-wrapped for your convenience.

African Family of 4 Shona Stone Sculpture (Zimbabwe)
African Family of 4 Shona Stone Sculpture (Zimbabwe)

The Shona stone sculpture of Zimbabwe is prized in art museums and galleries worldwide. Among the most appealing of these works of art are the Ukama - or Loving Families - sculptures, which depict mothers and their children, whole families, and couples embraced in love and dancing with joy. This ukama sculpture, made from rapoka stone, is designed by Panganai Kwinjo who carves and polishes his sculptures by hand to produce family groups of unusual beauty.

The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community & Culture
The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community & Culture

"Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality as with all major African celebrations... For what Kwanzaa offers is not an alternative to their religion or faith but a common ground of African culture which they all share and cherish." Origins and methods of celebration from the creator of Kwanzaa, Dr. Maulana Karenga

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa (Picture Puffins)
Seven Candles for Kwanzaa (Picture Puffins)

An introduction to the history, symbols, and customary celebration of this African-American holiday. Scratchboard illustrations stress the importance of Kwanzaa as a family event with warmly colored, harmoniously composed domestic scenes. Cultural cross-connections are drawn in the first two pictures (an American family exchanges gifts, including a length of kente cloth; then identically posed figures are transposed to a traditional African village) and enhanced by borders in African motifs. The author briefly discusses the Seven Principles, suggesting activities for Kwanzaa and through the year.



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