Did you know about Kwanzaa?
Posted: Friday, January 7, 2011 12:02 am
The Press 12/28
Celebrating the Fruits of the Harvest
Created by Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration of African culture and heritage.
Beginning the day after Christmas and continuing to New Year’s Day, Kwanzaa’s seven days of celebration include a host of different activities, including candle-lighting and decorating homes in black, red and green, the traditional colors of Kwanzaa.
African decorations including baskets and harvest items are also common Kwanzaa decorations.
The first Kwanzaa was celebrated from Dec. 26, 1966 to Jan. 1, 1967.
Karenga’s intention was to create a specifically African- American holiday, one that provided African-Americans an opportunity to celebrate their own unique history.
The name itself stems from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanzaa,” which means first fruits of the harvest.
In recognition of the holiday, the United States Postal Service issued its first Kwanzaa stamp on Oct. 22, 1997, an honor the USPS has long bestowed on holidays.
While initially Kwanzaa was steeped incontroversy, much of which resulted from Karenga’s divisive comments about Christianity, nowadays the holiday is far more mainstream.
Karenga himself stated in 1997 that practicing Christians would not be alienated when attempting to celebrate Kwanzaa, and that the holiday was not meant to provide an alternative to existing religions.
Families celebrate Kwanzaa by decorating their homes with African art and cloth, light the kinara – a candelabra that symbolizes the continent of Africa and the roots of all African Americans – and share libations and food.
The celebration centers around seven principles called Nguzo Saba, which emphasize the unity of Black families.
While in the early years, observers of Kwanzaa tended to avoid combining the holiday with other December celebrations, many African American families now celebrate Kwanzaa along with Christmas and New Year’s.