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Kwanzaa History, Trivia and Fun Facts

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Traditional Kwanzaa Information

Kwanzaa is a week-long secular holiday that celebrates African American heritage. Each year it is celebrated from Decemeber 26th, to January 1st. Kwanzaa was founded by a black nationalist by the name of Ron Karenga in 1966. The name is derived from the Swahili phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits."

The additional "a" was added to represent the seven children in the United Slaves Organization at the time. Karenga also wanted the seven letters to represent the "Seven Principles of Blackness." Each one of the principles represent one day of the celebration, which are as follows: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujmaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), imani (faith).

Kwanzaa was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African culture and heritage. It was originally created by Karenga to spread offensive views about the Christian Faith.

During Kwanzaa, people decorate their houses with colorful art and African cloth. Fresh fruits are put out on tables as centerpieces to represent African idealism. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, which represents the people, red, which represents struggle, and green which represents the future. During the celebration, observers must choose a central place in their homes for the symbols of Kwanzaa.

The celebration includes drumming and musical selections, libations, which are a reading of the "African Pledge" and the Principles of Blackness, a reflection of Pan-African colors, a candle lighting ritual, artistic performances, and a feast. Zawadi (gifts) such as books and heritage symbols are given to the children.

Each day, observers greet each other with, "Habri Gani" which means "What's the news?"

The last day of Kwanzaa is the first day of the New Year; it is a day of self-reflection and reflection on life and future of people, and the recommitment of one's highest cultural values.

Kwanzaa celebrates family, community and culture. The holiday is built on the five fundamental activities of the continental African "first fruit" celebration which are: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration. Although it may seem like it, Kwanzaa is NOT a religious holiday; it is a celebration of heritage and culture.

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