Many Americans are unaware of the meaning behind Kwanzaa, the African-American celebration of culture and heritage. Kwanzaa is a rather new holiday, first being celebrated in 1966. The week-long celebration runs from December 26th -January 1st every year, with each day focusing on a different moral to live by. Matunda ya kwanza, which translates to first fruits in Swahili, is where the holidays name is derived from.
There are a few decorations specific to Kwanzaa. Most common is the Mishumaa Saba, or seven candles. Each night one of the candles is lit on the candle holder, also known as the Kinara. Then the principle which falls on that day is discussed amongst the people you spend Kwanzaa with; whether that be friends, family, or neighbors. To decorate you may also place mazao in a bowl. Mazao means crops, so people will put different fruits or vegetables in a bowl to show the productivity of the community. Another traditional Kwanzaa decoration is muhindi, which are ears of corn laid out for each child present for the celebration. In the event that no children are attending, two ears of corn are put out to represent all the children in the community. Lastly, some Kwanzaa celebrators hang Bendera around the home. These are the Kwanzaa flags which represent the morals that are honored throughout the week.
The First Day
The first day of Kwanzaa is focused on Umoja (oo–MO–jah), or unity. This includes unity at a small scale, family or community; and, unity at a large scale, within the nation and the African-American race.
The Second Day
The second day is focused on Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah), or self-determination. This means doing things for yourself and defining your life on your own. Determining who you are is an important thing to do. To define yourself you must set goals!
The Third Day
The third day is focused on Ujima (oo–GEE–mah), or collective work and responsibility. This principle could be seen in contrast to Kujichagulia. Ujima encourages individuals to come together and take on the burden of one another’s problems. Building a sense of community is an important value of Kwanzaa.
The Fourth Day
The fourth day is focused on Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah), or collective economics. This lesson reminds those who celebrate Kwanzaa to support their local African-American community. Doing so includes shopping from their stores and bringing your business to their companies. One place people visit in their homes every day is their refrigerator. In fact, the average person opens their fridge 15-20 times a day! To help promote local businesses and companies, give out customized business magnets to remind people often how great your business is!
The Fifth Day
The fifth day is focused on Nia (nee–YAH), or purpose. This can go hand-in-hand with Ujamaa. To create purpose within the community, individuals must be on the same path. Kwanzaa highlights the further development of the African-American people as the unified purpose.
The sixth day is focused on Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah), or creativity. To be creative, you must use whatever resource you have available to you to fulfill your goal or mission. In turn, the community will be wonderful and plentiful for everyone. This is also the day of the Karamu Feast. During the feast the tribute is paid to the ancestors by the tambiko, or, libation ritual. A libation is offered in four directions, north, south, east and west. The group that gathers for the feast also drinks from the kikombe cha umoja, also known as the unity cup. To end the honoring of ancestors an elder pours the libation on the ground.
The Seventh Day
The seventh day is focused on Imani (ee–MAH–nee), or faith. The final principle on the final day of Kwanzaa prompts the celebrators to have faith in both their successes and struggles. They are also to have faith in the individuals who make up their community and the leaders who guide them. Faith may be last in the line of principles, but it is definitely not least.
Some Ways to Celebrate Kwanzaa
Celebrating Kwanzaa doesn’t mean you have to give up Christmas. Record your journey (and encourage others to do the same) in one of our Notebooks, Journals & Jotters. This way they can look back to help remind them of all the reasons to grow their faith in the African-American community. Another creative way to commemorate Kwanzaa is by making clay jewelry. You can make beads for a necklace or bracelet that can be worn all year long. Share your stories, experiences, and celebration ideas with loved ones on social media. Above all else, make sure you don’t forget the main reason for the season; enjoying time spent with family and friends!
There are many fun and creative ways ePromos can help you celebrate Kwanzaa. Contact us today so we can help you start planning your next celebration!