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December 23, 2011 > Kwanzaa: traditions and values

Kwanzaa: traditions and values

By Nisha Patel

With the holiday season in full swing, communities of all cultures and ethnicities enjoy these months with unique celebrations. Kwanzaa, a non-religious holiday celebrates African-American heritage, pride, family, and culture. The seven-day festival begins December 26 and culminates on January 1 of every year.

The name "Kwanzaa" is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanzaa" which means "first fruits" in Swahili. Each family celebrates the holiday in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on the last night of Kwanzaa. In most cases, families gather every night and a child lights one of the candles on the "kinara" (candleholder), after which one of seven principles is discussed. The principles, called "Nguzo Saba," are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcement of community values among African-Americans.

Seven basic symbols represent values of African culture: mazao, or fruit, nuts and vegetable crops, to symbolize work and the basis of this holiday; mkeka, or mat, symbolizes the foundation of African history and culture; kinara, or candleholder, honors the ancestry of the people; muhindi, or ear of corn, represents the fertility and reproduction of children as the future of the culture; mishuma saba, or seven candles, representing the minimum set of values by which all Africans are urged to live; kikombe cha umoja, or unity cup, to perform the libation on the sixth day to practice unity; and finally, zawadi, or gifts, to reward accomplishments, achievements and commitments that have been kept.

Inspired by the first harvests and civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Kwanzaa, is based on ancient African celebrations, and has become increasingly popular within the last decade. First developed in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa stresses the need to preserve, continually revitalize, and promote African culture. More than 20 million people celebrate Kwanzaa in the United States, Canada, England, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Kwanzaa 2011, hosted by Rev. and Mrs. Tommy Smith and sponsored by The Afro-American Cultural & Historical Society will be celebrated at Palma Cela Baptist Church, Friday, December 30 beginning at 6 p.m. All are welcome; there is no charge for admission.

Kwanzaa Celebration
Friday, Dec 30
6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Palma Cela Baptist Church
28605 Ruus Rd., Hayward
(510) 489-0689

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