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Origin Of Holidays

The History of Kwanzaa


Kwanzaa, observed from 26 December thru 1 January, is an African American/ Pan-African celebration of the family, community and culture.

The name Kwanzaa is from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means first fruits. Such "first fruits" celebrations have been recorded back in ancient Egyptian civilizations. Although there were traditions as such, Kwanzaa is truly an American invented day.

Although the exact nature of Kwanzaa is not based on anything in particular from a real historical or cultural aspect, it is a culmination of bits and pieces of many African cultures. Before you send in any more hate e-mail on this topic -- Kwanzaa is a modern holiday, but that DOES NOT make it any less special than any other holiday. It's importance lies in the hearts of those who choose to celebrate it. Even Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving and other holidays many people hold in high regard ARE MADE UP HOLIDAYS!! Stop sending me your racist e-mails on the subject. You know who you are!

Kwanzaa is built on five activities of the African first fruit celebrations. These are gathering, reverence, commemoration, commitment, and celebration.

During Kwanzaa, it is hoped for people to come together as a family, community and as a culture to reaffirm the bonds between them, acknowledge the blessings from the Creator and in the Creation itself, to remember the lessons taught by those who have set themselves up as leaders/teacher/fathers and ancestors, to commit to the highest ideals of humanity, to celebrate life.

Kwanzaa was instituted in the United States in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, who was professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University. Yes, he had a criminal record...Jesus technically had a criminal record, too...Should Easter and Christmas, which Christians copied and are based on pagan holidays the pagans made up, be avoided, especially as Jesus had a criminal record?

It was hoped to re-affirm and restoring the culture of the African American community during a turbulent era, to have a holiday that focused on the pride of being an African American and to celebrate the many victories overcame as well as to reflect upon what still needs to be done. In order to move forward as a people, the people needed to be united as one. Kwanzaa reaffirmed this goal.

Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday without religious ties. This was to not alienate anyone who valued their historical roots from Africa by the stigma of a religion one may find offensive and set up a common ground to unite.

The symbols in Kwanzaa are an important part of the celebration as each has a meaning to reflect upon. The symbols are as follow:

Mazao (crops) These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations.

Mkeka (mat) This is symbolic of our tradition and history.

Kinara (candle holder) This is symbolic of our roots.

Muhindi (corn) This is symbolic of our children and our future.

Mishumaa Saba (seven candles) These symbolize the Nguzo Saba or the Seven Principles. These are the set of values which African people are urged to live by to rescue and reconstruct their lives.

Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup) This symbolizes the principle and practice of unity.

Zawadi (gifts) These symbolize the labor and love of parents and their commitment to the children.

Bendera (flag) The colors of the Kwanzaa flag are the colors black, red and green - black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. It is based on the colors given by the Marcus Garvey for African people all over the world.

And a great song was written by James Weldon Johnson called "Lift Every Voice" which sums up the spirit of Kwanzaa well:

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day
Begun let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our wary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears have been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloony past,
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places,
Our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand.
True to our GOD,
True to our native land.