‘Kwanzaa’ means ‘first fruits of the harvest’ in African language Kiswahili. Festival is a popular harvest festival that has gained great acceptance among African Americans. ‘Kwanzaa’ was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. It is observed by more than18 million people worldwide. Festival is celebrated from 26th December to 1st January for these seven days. African descendents gather to celebrate with family and community. There are cultural events binding them together as people. Also, people remember their heritage. They give thanks for good things they have and rejoice in the goodness of life.
‘Kwanzaa’ has an important theme of number seven. Festival holidays are for seven days. Each day is meant for each of its seven guiding principles. Also, ‘Kwanzaa’ has seven basic symbols.
One of which consists of seven candles. Each of these symbols is connected to one or more of seven guiding principles. There are seven principles in Swahili. They are ‘Umoja’ [unity], ‘Kujichagulia’ [self-determination], ‘Ujima’ [collective work], ‘Ujamaa’ [cooperative economics], ‘Nia’ [purpose], ‘Kuumba’ [creativity] and ‘Imani’ [faith].
Gifts of books or heritage symbol are given mainly to children. Book is given to emphasise African values and traditions of learning stressed since ancient Egypt. Heritage symbol is gifted to repeat and reinforce African commitment to tradition and history. Colours of ‘Kwanzaa’ namely black, red and green are used in decorations for the festival. Decorations include traditional African items like African baskets, cloth patterns, art objects, harvest symbols, others.
‘Kwanzaa’ is traditionally celebrated in a well-known manner. Firstly, those who celebrate should have deep respect for festival’s values, symbols and practices. Hence, no one should do anything to violate its integrity, beauty and expansive meaning. Secondly, no one should mix ‘Kwanzaa’ festival, symbols, values and practices with any other culture. Thirdly, all must choose best and most beautiful items to celebrate ‘Kwanzaa’. People should take time to plan. They should select most beautiful objects of art, colourful African clothes, fresh fruits, vegetables and others. Purpose for this is every object used should represent African culture. This is the main commitment to the ‘Kwanzaa’ festival in the best of ways.