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History and the Thoughts Behind Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa, an African-American celebration of cultural reaffirmation, is one of the fastest-growing holidays in the history of the world. It took root 30 years ago, when graduate student Maulana Karenga, disturbed by the 1965 riots in Los Angeles' Watts area, decided that African-Americans needed an annual event to celebrate their differences rather than the melting pot. Not a religious holiday, Kwanzaa is, rather, a seven-day celebration that begins on Dec. 26 and continues through Jan. 1.

Kwanzaa is a spiritual, festive and joyous celebration of the oneness and goodness of life, which claims no ties with any religion. It has definite principles, practices and symbols which are geared to the social and spiritual needs of African-Americans. The reinforcing gestures are designed to strengthen our collective self-concept as a people, honor our past, critically evaluate our present and commit ourselves to a fuller, more productive future.

Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits of the harvest" in the African language Kiswahili, has gained tremendous acceptance. Since its founding in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa has come to be observed by more than15 million people worldwide, as reported by the New York Times. Celebrated from December 26th to January 1st, it is based on Nguzo Saba (seven guiding principles), one for each day of the observance:

Umoja (OO-MO-JAH) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, "I am We," or "I am because We are."

Kujichagulia (KOO-GEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-YAH) Self-Determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.

Ujima (OO-GEE-MAH) Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.

Ujamaa (OO-JAH-MAH) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.

Nia (NEE-YAH) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.

Kuumba (KOO-OOM-BAH) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.

Imani (EE-MAH-NEE) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.


The Kwanzaa Karumu is traditionally held on December 31st (participants celebrating New Year's Eve, should plan their Karamu early in the evening). It is a very special event as it is the one Kwanzaa event that brings us closer to our African roots. The Karamu is a communal and cooperative effort. Ceremonies and cultural expressions are highly encouraged. It is important to decorate the place where the Karamu will be held, (e.g., home, community center, church) in an African motif that utilizes black, red, and green color scheme. A large Kwanzaa setting should dominate the room where the karamu will take place. A large Mkeka should be placed in the center of the floor where the food should be placed creatively and made accessible to all for self-service. Prior to and during the feast, an informative and entertaining program should be presented. Traditionally, the program involved welcoming, remembering, reassessment, recommitment and rejoicing, concluded by a farewell statement and a call for greater unity.

Seven Days of Kwanzaa

Umoja (Unity)
Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
Nia (Purpose)
Kuumba (Creativity)
Imani (Faith)


Umoja (ooh-MOE-jah) means Unity, and it is the principle for the first day
of Kwanzaa. Our families and communities need unity in order for them to be
productive and to survive. On this day, we pledge to strive for -- and to maintain
-- unity in the family, in the community, in the nation that we have helped to build,
and with our PEOPLE.


Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-ah) means self-determination
and is the second day of Kwanzaa. On this day, we pledge to define
ourselves, to NAME ourselves, to create for ourselves, and to speak for ourselves,
instead of being defined, named by, created for and spoken for by others.
On this day we design for ourselves a positive future and then vow to make that
prophecy -- that DREAM -- a self-fulfilling one.


Ujima (ooh-GEE-mah) is the third day of Kwanzaa and means "collective work
and responsibility". On this day we celebrate working together in the community to
help others. For Ujima, we pledge to rebuild our communities and to help our people
solve our own problems by working together to do it.

Ujamaa (OOH-jah mah) means cooperative economics and is the fourth day
of Kwanzaa. On this day of Kwanzaa, we pledge to develop our own businesses
and to support them, to maintain shops, stores and industry that contribute to
the well-being of our community and to drive out businesses (boycott, etc.) that take
FROM our communities and give nothing back.


Nia (NEE-ah) is the fifth day of Kwanzaa and it means "purpose". On this day,
we pledge to build and develop our communities, our schools and our families.
We also pledge to provide a strong communal foundation from which our children
can develop into strong and productive people.


Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) is the sixth day of Kwanzaa, and it means "creativity".
On this day, we pledge several things. We pledge to do whatever
we can to make our communities and homes more beautiful
and better than we found them. We also pledge to use our creative
talents and energies to improve young minds and hearts.


Imani (ee-MAH-nee) is the seventh and last day of Kwanzaa. Imani means faith.
On this day, the beginning of the new year we pledge to believe with all our hearts
and minds in our people, our parents, our good and dedicated teachers and leaders,
and in the greater good of the work we do with and for one another, for the community
and for the PEOPLE.



2. MKEKA - Straw Mat/ Symbolizes our African traditions and history.

3. KINARA - Candle Holder (for seven candles)/Symbolizes the continent of Africa, our place of origin and roots. When putting the candles in the Kinara, the 3 red candles are placed on the left side. The 3 green candles are placed on the right. The single black candle is placed in the center and is the candle which will be lit first. On each day of Kwanzaa a new candle will be lit as a symbol of the Kwanzaa Nguzo or principle of that day. The candles will be lit in alternating colors. First the black candle is lit, then the farthest left red candle, then the farthest right green candle, then the next red, then next green, then the last red, and then the final green.

4. MISHUMAA SABA - Seven Candles (1 BLACK, 3 RED, 3 GREEN)/Symbolize the seven principles of Kwanza.

5. MAZAO - Crops/ Symbolize the historical roots of Kwanzaa as a harvest-type/first fruits celebration.

6. MUHUNDI OR VIBUNZI - Ears of corn (at least one)/Symbolize the offspring the children.

7. KIKOMBI CHA UMOJA - Unity Cup/Symbolizes the First Principle of Kwanzaa and is used for pouring libation.

8. NGUZO SABA POSTER - The Seven Principles Poster/Symbolize the key role they play in kwanza.

9. ZAWADI - Gifts (African history-cultural books and/or heritage symbols) Symbolize the key role of education and culture in Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa Recipes:

Sorce: www.wikipedia.org