By: CJ Ramsaran

Matunda ya Kwanza in Swahili translates to first fruits of the harvest.  The name Kwanzaa derives from this translation. 

Kwanzaa was established in 1966-1967 by Maulana Karenga of the US Organization; becoming the first African American-centric holiday.

Kwanzaa is a 7 day celebration commencing on December 26 to January 1st each year.

The views and practice of Kwanzaa had some scrutiny in the earlier days of its inception.  Karenga initially intended that Kwanzaa would be observed as an alternative holiday to Christmas and Christianity.  Karenga soon came to the realization that he must take a different position on this view to alleviate the alienation of practicing Christians.  

In 1997  Kwanzaa became known as a “Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture” and is observed in addition to Christmas.

Over the 7 Days of Kwanzaa, we celebrate the principles outlined below:

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

During the 7 Days of Kwanzaa, a decorative mat is laid which is used as the foundation for other symbols.  A candelabra with 7 candles, called a kinara are lit; display of the red/black/green flag (representing all people of the African Diaspora regardless of land of birth), a communal cup for libations, a poster of the seven principles, along with corn and other crops.

Whether you are of African American descent, believer or non-believer in Kwanzaa; the principles are relevant and can be practiced and observed by all.

Happy Kwanzaa to you and yours!