Mommy Blog Expert: Kwanzaa December 16 - January 1 - 7-Day African American Cultural Festival With Roots in History

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kwanzaa December 16 - January 1 - 7-Day African American Cultural Festival With Roots in History


Yesterday, African Americans held events across the U.S. to officially kick off the beginning of the seven day celebration of Kwanzaa. I'm not of African American descent and don't celebrate this relatively modern holiday. Still, I have studied about African culture before and am particularly interested in their folk and fine arts. This background prompted me to look into how this special season is celebrated. Knowing my readers,  I thought you might enjoy learning more about this too.
Hand-Embroidered 40,000 Stitch Traditional African Folk Art Tapestry
Purchased from North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry's Embroidery Program 
iPhone Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

Here in metro Los Angeles the holiday's customs and traditions -- which like the holiday, have little to do with any particular religion -- were celebrated by thousands. Both in private homes and also on Crenshaw Boulevard and in Leimert Park as well as elsewhere across Southern California, African Americans joined in marking this colorful festival by holding customary candle lighting ceremonies, getting together with friends and families and enjoying foods, music and cultural activities that connect them to history and origins of the motherland.

Festivities will be going on in virtually every community with an African American population in America over the course of the festival which began on December 26 and runs through January 1. Kwanzaa is Swahili, a language spoken in various parts of the African continent and literally means first. This originates from the phrase Matunda ya kwanza which translates to mean first fruits in English.

The holiday, first celebrated in 1966, was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, formerly executive director of the Institute of Pan-African Studies in Los Angeles and now chairman Department of Africana Studies at California State University Long Beach. His premise was simple: To inspire his people to remain connected to the African way of life of their ancestors.

Each of the 7 days is associated with a different concept
  • December 26 - Umoja or Unity - Cooperation as family, community, nation and race
  • December 27 - Kujichagulia or Self-Determination - Knowing self, speaking out and preparing for one's personal journey in life
  • December 28 - Ujima or Collective Work/Responsibility - Building community, sharing with others and being part of the solution not the problem
  • December 29 - Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics - Creating and maintaining an infra structure of business and sharing profits
  • December 30 - Nia or Purpose - Building communities and reawakening traditional morality: respect for others, especially parents and elders; also responsibility for self and others
  • December 31 - Kuumba or Creativity - Using intellect, physical skills and natural gifts to preserve the culture's history
  • January 1 - Imani or Faith - Heart felt belief as a people in righteousness and ultimate victory in the struggle for equality
Kwanzaa yenu iwe heri!
Happy Kwanzaa! 
Native Art Handmade by African Craftsmen
Grass basket, gourd shaker, clay frogs
iPhone Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

I encourage everyone, whether you celebrate or not, to leave your thoughts about this annual commemoration. If you do celebrate Kwanzaa or know someone else who does, definitely feel free to tell about your/their favorite annual traditions associated with it.
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1 comment:

Kathy said...

I love to learn about different traditions and I really like that Kwanzaa celebrates family and community! What a great way to end the year and get ready for a new one! Thanks for a great post! I found you on Twitter and am now following via email! Look forward to reading more from you!