Wednesday, December 20, 2006
The Beauty of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa makes every December a special time of the year as hundreds of millions of Africans around the globe honor their past and their present during this most special of times.
Kwanzaa means "first fruits of the harvest" in Swahili, a common language in Africa today. There are seven days of Kwanzaa (the Nguzo Saba) which runs from December 26th thru Jan 1st. Each day of Kwanzaa honors a specific African principal:
Day One is UMOJA
(UNITY) --To Strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Day Two is KUJICHAGULIA
(SELF DETERMINATION) --To define ourselves, names ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves rather than to allow others to do these things for us.
Day Three is UJIMA
(COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY) --To build and maintain our community together to make our sister and brothers' problems our problems and to solve them together.
Day Four is UJAMAA
(COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS) --To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Day Five is NIA
(PURPOSE) --To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Day Six KUUMBA
(CREATIVITY) --To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.
Day Seven is IMANI
(FAITH) --To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
The traditions of Kwanzaa date back thousands of years and as far back as ancient Egypt. The ancient African celebration of Kwanzaa was a ceremony of appreciation for the "first fruits of harvest". The four elements that made up the original African meaning of Kwanzaa were unity, awareness of ancestry and heritage, recommitment to traditional values and reverence for the creator.
There are many symbols of Kwanzaa. For example, the Kwanzaa candelabra is called a kinara. The straw mat that the kinara is placed on is a mkeka. Ears of corn are also placed on the mat (Corn has a special place in African history. Africans were the first to visit the Americas long before white men did and corn was given to the African explorers as a gift from the Indians), one to represent each child in the household. They are called the vibunzi (or muhindi). A fruit basket is placed on the mkeka, and is called the mazao. The unity cup is also placed on the mkeka, and is called the kikombe cha umoja. The seven candles that are placed in the kinara are called the Mishumaa Saba. Finally, all the gifts are called the zawadi and are traditionally given on Imani - the last day of Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa is an expression of African pride and of truth. Among all peoples on Earth, Africans are the most beautiful, the most creative and the most just of all people.