You have probably heard about the African American holiday called Kwanzaa, but you probably did not know that Kwanzaa has only been celebrated for less than a century. In 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga developed this holiday to celebrate the African harvest.
Kwanzaa is celebrated for seven days, beginning on December 26, and ending January 31. Every day during Kwanzaa, another candle is lit on the candelabra, also called the kinara. The candelabra is placed on top of mkeka, a mat made of straw, where husks of corn are also placed. The number of husks of corn is determined by the number of children in the family and are called the vibunzi, or muhindi. The candelabra holds seven candles called the mishumaa saba, and each candle represents a different African cultural value.
On the first day, the central black candle is lit, which symbolizes umojam, or unity. On the second day, the red candle closest to the black one is lit, symbolizing kujichagulia, or motivating yourself. The green candle on the other side of the black candle is lit on the third day and symbolizes duty, ujima. The fourth day is marked by the red candle in the middle, and symbolizes ujamaa, or being responsible with your money. On the fifth day, the green candle in the middle is lit, symbolizing principle, or nia. The sixth day is marked by the red candle on the outside, symbolizing imagination, called kuumba. On the seventh day, the outmost green candle is lit, symbolizing faith, or imani. Also on the seventh day, presents are exchanged between family members.
Kwanzaa is not meant to be a religious holiday, but is for African Americans to enjoy the presence of family and spend time together.
Author: Julia, middle school student writer