Established in 1996, Kwanzaa is celebrated December 26 through 1 January each year in honor of African heritage in our country. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits”.
Celebrations include songs, dances, storytelling, and a large traditional family meal that takes place on December 31st. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the ‘seven principles’ is discussed. These principles are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing the African-American community.
The Principles include;
Unity: maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race
Self-determination: define, create and speak out
Collective Work and Responsibility: build and maintain the community together
Cooperative Economics: build and maintain businesses and profit from them together
Purpose: support the vocation to develop the community and return it to traditional greatness
Creativity: do as much as we can to leave the community more beautiful and beneficial than it was when inherited
Faith: believe in the Afro American people, parents, teachers, leaders, and the victory of the struggle that has been endured
Here’s something that I love about this holiday – candles are the key ceremonial object. Why? Firstly, because the burning candle represents the sun’s power that provides heat and light. And secondly, because the burning candle represents a ‘symbol of celebration’; be that life, death, happiness, grief, tranquility, togetherness or separation. This symbol of celebration is are not limited to one particular race or religion, but for everyone, everywhere throughout the world making the candle an ultimate symbol of unity.
So join in the celebration and light a candle!