December 26 – January 1
Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba. The Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest”. A more conventional translation would simply be “first fruits”. Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba – the seven principles of African Heritage). They were developed in 1965, a year before Kwanzaa itself. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning “common”. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one principle, as follows:
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
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 we inherited it.
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.
Kwanzaa celebratory symbols include a mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed: a Kinara (candle holder for seven candlesticks), Mishumaa Saba (seven candles), mazao (crops), Mahindi (corn), a Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup) for commemorating and giving shukrani (thanks) to African Ancestors, and Zawadi (gifts).
Supplemental representations include a Nguzo Saba poster, the black, red, and green bendera (flag), and African books and artworks – all to represent values and concepts reflective of African culture and contribution to community building and reinforcement. Ears of corn represent the children celebrating and corn may be part of the holiday meal. In homes where Kwanzaa is celebrated, the kinara is placed on a mat known as a mkeka. A number of items are placed around it, including: Corn and crops to symbolize the harvest. A cup called the ikombe cha Umoja that honors one’s African ancestors. Gifts called Zawadi for friends and family.. Many families create elaborate displays that also include flags that represent their African roots and African works of art and handicrafts. Often, each night is marked with a special meal. Communities may stage productions of African dance, host African poetry readings or showcase African art during Kwanzaa.