Every culture has celebrations which are important to them. Some of these celebrations are political and many are religious. This isn’t the case for Kwanzaa. If you’re unsure how to explain the meaning of Kwanzaa to your children, perhaps this article will help.
Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa celebrates families, community and the culture of Africans around the world. It was designed to restore the African culture no matter where those families may be living, and give a sense of community to those of African descent.
The celebration is based on seven principles:
- Umoja or unity
- Kujichagulia or self-determination
- Ujima or collective work and responsibility
- Ujamaa or cooperative economics
- Nia or purpose
- Kuumba or creativity
- Imani or faith
Each day during the seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa, one of these principles is emphasized. Rather than concentrating on the seven principles only during the Kwanzaa celebration, families are encouraged to discuss ways each family member can live out these principles throughout the year.
There are also seven symbols associated with Kwanzaa:
- Mazeo – the crops, fruits and vegetables which shows the rewards of labor
- Mkeka – mat or placemat which demonstrates the foundation of history and tradition
- Muhindi – the corn which symbolizes the children and the future
- Mishumaa Saba – the seven candles which denotes the seven principles
- Kinara – the candleholder which symbolizes the roots of continental Africa
- Kikombe Cha Umoja – the unity cup which symbolizes practicing unity
- Zawadi – the gifts which symbolize labor and love of parents as well as the commitment made and kept by the children of a family
These symbols will be used throughout the holiday at specific ceremonies during the celebration.
Kwanzaa wasn’t designed to replace other holidays during the winter months. The Christians have Christmas, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, pagans have winter solstice and those of African lineage now have Kwanzaa. Much like other holidays, Kwanzaa is designed to gather African families and communities together in such a way to leave a legacy for those who follow in their footsteps.
In order not to conflict with holidays celebrated by other cultures, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 through January 1. Two gifts are given each year, a book and something to stimulate pride in African history and culture, as well as other gifts. The name ‘Kwanzaa’ can be translated as ‘first fruits’ from the Swahili language.
Decorations for Kwanzaa include black, red and green. You can also expect to see traditional symbols and items from Africa. Candles are lit each night and children are encouraged to be an active participant in the celebration.
Kwanzaa may be a relatively recent celebration but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Determining how to explain the meaning of Kwanzaa to your children will help them understand their friends who are of African descent. Why not surprise an African friend with a Kwanzaa gift this year based on one of the seven principles?