kwanzaa santa Complete with Dashiki and Kufi

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About Kwanzaa

The celebration of Kwanzaa is a uniquely African American expression of unity, positive images and values in the ongoing struggle for full economic, political and social equality in American life. Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a prominent figure in the formation of Black nationalist thought and politics during the civil rights era of the 60s, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st. The set of prescribed rituals and ceremonies at the heart of the festival reflect African cultural and social experiences, particularly the traditional agricultural festivals of first fruits, and honor the value system of the Seven Principles or Nguzo Saba.

Kwanzaa, in the African language Kiswahili, means "first fruits of the harvest." While formulated as a spiritual holiday, Kwanzaa is neither a political nor a religious celebration. A common misconception is that it is a substitute for Christmas. This simply is not true. Kwanzaa is first and foremost a festive and joyous celebration of the oneness and goodness of life. Kwanzaa stands out as a vehicle to help Black American families rediscover, remember and reassess their past in order to fully understand the present and prepare for the future.

At a time when so much emphasis is placed on "family values" in this country, the celebration of Kwanzaa gathers black families together in an unmistakable expression of unity. It gives them an opportunity to recommit themselves to the struggle to fully participate in the rich fabric of American life, and to fully achieve the American 'dream'. It reinforces and strengthens the concept of Black Americans as a people, and while honoring their African cultural past, they acknowledge their existence in this country and look to a better and richer life here.

The focus of Kwanzaa centers around the Seven Principles or Nguzo Saba. They are Umojo (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); Imani (Faith). Taken together, these principles or values constitute not just a philosophical system, but are a way of life.

As with Hanukkah, the celebration of Kwanzaa takes place in the home. The essential components of its observance are a seven-branch candelabra called a kinara (not to be confused with the nine-branch menorah); seven candles, one black, three red, and three green, called mishumaa saba; a straw placemat called a mkeka; fruits and vegetables called mazao; ears of corn representing the number of children in the home, called vibunzi; a common cup symbolizing unity called kikombe cha umoja; and gifts called zwaidi. Emphasis is placed on gifts that are enriching, i.e. of an educational or artistic nature, and are traditionally exchanged between parents and children on the last day of Kwanzaa, January 1st.

The Kwanzaa Feast or Karamu, is traditionally held early in the evening of December 31st. Its purpose is for the community to collectively give thanks to the Creator for the past year's achievements in a highly festive manner. The celebration consists of eating and drinking, music and dancing, discourse, merriment and, of course, colorful and distinctive ceremony.

Courtesy of the Kwanzaa Information Center

To learn more about Kwanzaa

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