By Cheri Willoughby and Rhetta Barker.
Kwanzaa is celebrated by millions around the world, representing opportunity for celebration of family, community, and culture.
Dr. Maulana Karenga started the celebration of Kwanzaa in 1966. Feeling African Americans were detached from the values and culture of the continent of Africa, he created the celebration to give them something they could connect to and make their lives better.
Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration of the harvest. The word Kwanzaa derives from a Swahili word meaning “first fruits”. Celebrations of the harvest are observed by many cultures, and all cultures and ethnicities are welcome to celebrate Kwanzaa with their families as well.
Nguzo Saba – The Seven Principals
December 26 to January 1 are the dates Kwanzaa celebrations are observed. Those 7 days represent the 7 principals Kwanzaa is based on. They are:
Kinara- The Candelabra
The candelabra used in Kwanzaa is called the Kinara (Swahili meaning candle holder). The center candle is black, representing the people; and should be lit on the first day. Beginning from the far left; with the red candles on the left (representing the blood) and the green candles on the right (representing the earth) a candle is lit each day to represent the seven principles.
African Americans are not the only families celebrating Kwanzaa. People from every ethnicity join in celebrations of Kwanzaa with their family. It is a wonderful way to grow and celebrate our hard work and accomplishments.
Kwanzaa Around America
If you are a traveler and would like to visit, and participate in a Kwanzaa celebration with family and friends, the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, New York holds one of the largest Kwanzaa celebrations in the United States. Almost 10,000 people were in attendance in recent years, and even more are expected to attend in the future!
Washington D.C. celebrations will include events at the Alexandria Black History Museum, exploring the history and significance of Kwanzaa; The Coyaba Dance Theater, an institution for traditional contemporary West African dance and music; and the Anacostia Community Museum; which is a branch of the Smithsonian highlighting about 6,000 objects representing black history from the 1800s to present.
Other cities, including Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle, Washington; and Cleveland, Ohio all celebrate Kwanzaa with their own unique events. You will want to check out if there is a Kwanzaa celebration in the place you will be visiting with your family. Come, celebrate, and dance!
Following the pandemic of 2020 and the many orders to stay safe, stay home, stay away; when we are able travel again to spend time with our families and friends, visiting a Kwanzaa celebration will be a great family activity. Check any city or state you might be in. Join the celebration!
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