History of Kwanzaa

The unique festival of Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration laying its focus on the traditional African values of self-improvement, community responsibility, family and commerce. The history of Kwanzaa is a Pan-African festival, which is celebrated from December 26 to January 1. The festival is neither religious nor political.

The term Kwanzaa implies the first fruits of the harvest, in the Swahili phrase (an African language). Founded in 1966, Kwanzaa is now celebrated all over the world by more than 18 million people.

Based on the Nguzo Saba or the seven guiding principles for the seven-day celebration, Kwanzaa consists of activities like gift-giving, feasting, lighting of candles and the pouring of libations.

The History Of Kwanzaa

The history of Kwanzaa brings us to Ron Karenga, who created Kwanzaa in 1966 when he was in California. At that time, he was the leader of the US Organization or the Black Nationalist United Slaves Organization. His mission was to provide the African Americans a holiday, which will be alternative to Christmas. It gave the Blacks a chance to celebrate.

Formerly Karenga had stated that, Christianity being a religion for the whites, should be spurned by the blacks. Later, he shifted from this view, as he did not want to alienate Christians from joining the celebration.

Nine years after the creation of Kwanzaa, Karenga went on to become a Marxist.

Spelling of Kwanzaa

The history of Kwanzaa tells us that an additional “a” was added to “Kwanza”, as then it would have seven letters. There were seven children in the United Slaves Organization, and each symbolized one of the letters in Kwanzaa. The seven letters also reflect the “Seven Principles of Blackness”.

Another theory reveals that an additional “a” was provided to the term in order to distinguish the Afro-American from the African.

Observance of Kwanzaa

The Kwanzaa families adorn their houses with art objects and fresh fruits denoting the African idealism. Children give respect to their ancestors. The celebration includes libations, musical selections and drummings. A reading from the African Pledge and a discussion of the African principle for the day follows. Ultimately, there is a candle lighting custom and a feast amidst artistic performances.

Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

The seven principles of the celebration consists Kawaida, which is a Swahili word implying reason and tradition. The principles are:

  • Umoja (Unity) in the family, nation, race and community.
  • Imani (Faith) in their people, parents, leaders, teachers and the victory in their struggle.
  • Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) for the developing of their community and to cater to the problems of their brothers and sisters, as they would tend to their own problems.
  • Nia (Purpose) to develop their community and restore the traditional richness to their people.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative economics) for the maintenance of their stores, businesses and shops in order to make good profit.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-determination) to name themselves and also to create and speak for themselves.
  • Kuumba (Creativity) to do whatever possible to make the community more beneficial and beautiful.

The history of Kwanzaa has its source in the civil rights era of the 1960s. The festival is keenly observed in the United States of America.