Yesterday I mentioned that there are a number of different Winter Holidays in December, other than Christmas, and featured some awesome ideas for celebrating Hanukkah. Today I will introduce you to Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday about the festival of the first harvest of the crops. It begins on December 26, and lasts for seven days. The name Kwanzaa, sometimes spelled Kwanza, comes from a phrase which means "first fruits" in Swahili, an East African language.
Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. It is celebrated through singing, speaking, dancing and reciting traditional. Kwanzaa is built on seven principles that are commonly known as "Nguzo Saba". These principles are:
- umoja - unity
- kujichagulia - self-determination
- ujima - collective work and responsibility
- ujamaa - cooperative economics
- nia - purpose
- kuumba - creativity
- imani - faith
Kwanzaa was developed from elements of the African heritage. The African celebration of Kwanzaa was a ceremony of appreciation for the "first fruits of harvest". The four elements that made up the original African meaning of Kwanzaa were unity, awareness of ancestry and heritage, recommitment to traditional values, and reverence for creator and the creation.
The modern celebration of Kwanzaa lasts seven days, from December 26 to January 1. Each of the seven days of the celebration is dedicated to one of the seven principles. Each day one candle is lit that represents each principle.
Day 1 - middle candle - Black - Umoja - Unity
Day 2 - innermost red candle - Kujichagulia - Self-determination
Day 3 - innermost green candle - Ujima - Collective Work and Responsibility
Day 4 - middle red candle - Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics
Day 5 - middle green candle - Nia - Purpose
Day 6 - outermost red candle - Kuumba - Creativity
Day 7 - outermost green candle - Imani - Faith
There are many symbols of Kwanzaa. The Kwanzaa candelabra is called a kinara. The straw mat that the kinara is placed on is a mkeka. Ears of corn are also placed on the mat, one to represent each child in the household. They are called the vibunzi (or muhindi). A fruit basket is placed on the mkeka, and is called the mazao. The unity cup is also placed on the mkeka, and is called the kikombe cha umoja. The seven candles that are placed in the kinara are called the Mishumaa Saba. Finally, all the gifts are called the zawadi and are traditionally given on Imani - the last day of Kwanzaa.
On the evening of Kuumba (December 31) there is a feast called Karamu. This is the main focus of Kwanzaa where cultural expression is encouraged. This is practiced to bring all participants closer to their African roots. The program for the Karamu generally involves a welcome, a remembrance of ancestry, a reassessment of situations, a recommitment to values, a rejoicing, a farewell statement, and a call for greater unity.
The last day of Kwanzaa, or "Imani", focuses on honoring traditions and reaffirming self worth through gift giving. Gifts are often made rather than bought because Kwanzaa emphasizes creativity or "kuumba" - one of the seven principles.
The point of Kwanzaa is not one of gift giving or religious celebration, but a commemoration of heritage and togetherness. Family and friends should find Kwanzaa to be a time of sharing and pulling together. The guiding principles teach values we tend to lose in a more modern and solitary society. Since the original ideas were to bring forth the harvest, the guiding principles bring people together to remind us how important we are to each other.
In A Kwanzaa Celebration, Nancy Williams and award winning illustrator Robert Sabuda have created an exuberant mix of symbolic holiday images, bold blocks of color, and ingenious pop-ups. This festive book is a true celebration of a joyous African-American holiday
A simple way to get acquainted with Kwanzaa
During the seven days of Kwanzaa we celebrate the importance of family, friends, and community. This warm and lively introduction to a very special holiday will help even the youngest children join in!
Author and illustrator Karen Katz kicks off a wonderful new series of picture books for the very young with My First Kwanzaa. The series will offer a simple and fun way to get familiar with the traditions of holiday celebrations from different cultures
Check here for some great Kwanzaa coloring sheets
Make a homemade Kwanzaa mat using black construction paper with red and green ribbon. Cut the construction paper into strips and intertwine the two colored ribbons alternately
Another wonderful craft idea for kids is to start a Kwanzaa scrapbook wherein they can record what they have learned each year about Kwanzaa. Perhaps they can write their thoughts about their heritage, stories they may have been told and observations on books they may have read. They can decorate the front of the scrapbook with the 7 Symbols of Kwanzaa
Make necklaces out of red, green and black beads using a satin cord. You can find these beads in any craft store.
Make a Kwanzaa Handprint Wreath - see the instructions here.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
Cut in butter until mixture is pea sized.
Add last two ingredients and stir until dough is formed.
Drop unto a cookie sheet to make 15 biscuits.
Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden.
Serve while still warm.
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