Kwanzaa is a celebration of African culture. The basis for the Kwanzaa celebration came largely from the Swahili traditions and culture. It is a holiday meant to bring the African American community together and celebrate the best of its culture. Kwanzaa is a seven day holiday that spans from December 26Th through January 1. Each of the seven days honors one of the Kwanzaa principles.

It is important to note that, unlike other holidays, people of all faiths can celebrate Kwanzaa. Since it is a cultural celebration, it does not conflict with any other religion or faith.

The history of Kwanzaa is very unique to that of other traditional holidays. Kwanzaa originated in the mid-20Th century. Kwanzaa is the dream child of Dr. Mualena Karenga, who was the chairman and professor of black studies at California State University, Long Beach.

He developed the Kwanzaa holiday as a positive response to the Watts riots. The Watts riots portrayed some of the worst in black history, and Dr. Karenga thought that there needed to be a way to honor the best in black culture, history and tradition. Kwanzaa was a way to bring families and communities together to support each other, be thankful for the year's blessings, and celebrate all that is good.

Although many of the principles and the language used to name the Seven Principles are Swahili, the practices of Kwanzaa draw on a number of different African cultures. The tenets of Kwanzaa have roots in early African culture. Many African tribes had a tradition of celebrating the first fruits, or annual harvest season. The word Kwanzaa actually comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanzaa", which translates to "first fruits." Thus, the last night of Kwanzaa is marked by a feast called Karamu.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are collectively called Nguzo Saba. Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to celebrating and exploring one of the principles, and a candle is lit in the kinara (candle holder) each night to honor the principle for the day.

The seven principles are as follows:

  •     Umoja - Unity
  •     Kujichagulia - Self-determination
  •     Ujima - Collective work and responsibility
  •     Ujamaa - Cooperative economics
  •     Nia - Purpose
  •     Kuumba - Creativity
  •     Imani - Faith

The first night a black candle is lit in the center of the kinara to represent the first principle, umoja (unity). Red or green candles are lit the following nights, with the red candles representing nia, kuumba and imani, and the green candles representing kujichagulia, ujima and ujamaa

Food and feasting also plays a large part in the celebration of Kwanzaa. Many families who celebrate Kwanzaa will cook traditional dishes from different African countries to honor and explore the African culture.
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