Kwanza: 5 Simple Rules for Happiness

kwanzaKwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of African Studies at California State University, Long Beach, author and scholar-activist, who stresses the indispensable need to preserve, continually revitalize and promote African American culture.

Kwanzaa, is an African-American celebration of cultural reaffirmation,  and 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 December 26th and continues through January 1 st.

Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.

The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa. Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations: ingathering; reverence; commemoration; recommitment; and celebration.

Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, thus available to and practiced by Africans of all religious faiths who come together based on the rich, ancient and varied common ground of their Africanness.

*Summarized from — Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture, 2008, Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press.

The seven days long Kwanzaa holiday is not just about making of Kwanzaa gifts, lighting of the seven colored candles on the Kinara, drinking and pouring out libation from the unity cup/Kikombe Cha Umoja or placing of the Mkeka/special mat.

Each day has a specific meaning and purpose, and provides valuable reading for youth and children:

  1. Umoja (Unity)
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
  5. Nia (Purpose)
  6. Kuumba (Creativity)
  7. Imani (Faith)

It also involves the singing and playing of Kwanzaa music during the seven-day holiday, especially on the Kwanzaa feast. Singing or playing of Kwanzaa music is a way to commemorate and celebrate the Kwanzaa holiday. The Kwanzaa music covers everything from the educational and informative lyrics on the history and origin of Kwanzaa holiday to the sing-along lines in African languages. There are lots of sing-along Kwanzaa music for both children and adults. Kwanza music

What is Kwanzaa Celebration without those drums, and those African rhythms! We have carefully selected some Great African drumbeats for you, that you can play and dance with! Just Download the file and unzip it, and you are ready to go !

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