The seven-day festival of Kwanzaa, which celebrates African-American heritage and culture, runs from Wednesday, Dec. 26, to Tuesday, Jan. 1.
Noted on the official Kwanzaa Web site are remarks by founder Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of Africana studies at California State University in Long Beach. He also is the chair of The Organization Us and the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO).
Karenga notes that the African-American and Pan-African holiday is celebrated by millions throughout the world, bringing a "cultural message" that "speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense."
The founder's messsage notes as well that the holiday is a time of appreciative remembrance, sustained reflection and self-conscious recommitment. The aim is to honor ancestral legacy, to uphold moral and cultural values and to hold fast to the ancient African ethical mandate found in the Odu Ifa, which is to "constantly bring good in the world and not let any good be lost," according to Karenga.
According to History.com:
- Kwanzaa was first celebrated Dec. 26, 1966.
- "Kwanzaa" comes from the Swahili phrase, "matudna ya kwanza," which means, "first fruits."
- Each family celebrated Kwanzaa in its own way, with celebrations often including "songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading and a large traditional meal."
- "On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed."
- The seven principles (in Swahili, the "Nguzo Saba") are values of African culture that "contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans."
For more on Kwanzaa:
- Read Kwanzaa History at History.com
- View the History of Kwanzaa video, at History.com
Do you celebrate Kwanzaa? Share your memories and rituals in the comment box below.