Kwanzaa was started by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a “Branch” back to the African tree.
Kwanzaa is a Pan-African, nonreligious, holiday celebration meant to connect Black people throughout the African Diaspora back to their roots through affirmation of self and restoration of our cultural heritage.
The ideals of Kwanzaa are expressed through the commonly spoken East-African language of Ki-swahili. Kwanzaa itself means first fruits and is styled in the African tradition of the harvest festivals that took place at the time of the great annual crop harvest. This event was seen and celebrated as a time of renewal and rebirth in various African societies such as Ancient Egypt, the Ashanti Kingdom and by the Zulu Nation to name some
Along with connecting to their roots through traditional cultural practices, Kwanzaa is designed to give the practitioner a vehicle to reaffirm themselves to productive personal and community values. It’s an opportunity for personal, family, and community renewal. This is accomplished through The Nguzo Saba or The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa (http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/NguzoSaba.html). These seven principles give Kwanzaa its true meaning and very much separates it from most holidays.
Kwanzaa is celebrated by gathering each night(or day) starting December the 26th, to celebrate, extol, pray for, etc. the principle of that day. For instance today is the 4th day of Kwanzaa, so to day we highlight Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) -
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
To enact these highlighting ceremonies people may gather in private celebrations among just family and friends or go to a community event. Green, read, and black(the pan-African colors established by Garvey) candles or Mishumaa are lit, seven, one for each principle; and a unity cup or Kikombe cha Umoja is used to pour out libations in memory of the ancestors and past around in small gatherings for everyone to drink from in a show of unity.
In Kwanzaa we greet each other with the warm welcome of Habari Gani – “what’s the news?” or Harambee – “pull together”.
Kwanzaa with its guiding principles is more than a one week recognition ceremony; but a way of life that should be celebrated through the practice of said principles year around.