This past Kwanzaa was the second year my husband and I celebrated Kwanzaa. We have found that a cultural holiday resonated for us more than a religious holiday. I have heard the call for a few years now to write children’s books for Kwanzaa - going over the holiday and highlighting the essential aspects. Putting the beginning of that future plan into action, each night of this past Kwanzaa, my husband and I after lighting the candle and partaking in libations would take time to reflect on each principle. We discussed what it means to us and what we want our future kids to understand and acknowledge about each principle.
For those who are unaware, Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas and ends on the first of January of the new calendar year. It is a celebration aimed at celebrating Black culture and centers around Seven Principles, Nguzo Saba (En-GOO-zoh Sah-BAH), which represent the values of family, community, and culture for Africans and people of African descent to live by.
During the candle-lighting ceremony, the first night the black candle in the center is lit and the principle of Umoja (Unity) is discussed.
The Seven Principles :
Umoja (Unity): maintaining unity as a family, community, and race of people.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): defining, naming, creating, and speaking for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): building and maintaining our community—solving problems together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics: building and maintaining retail stores and other businesses and to profit from these ventures.
Nia (Purpose): work collectively to build communities that will restore the greatness of African people.
Kuumba (Creativity): to find new, innovative ways to leave communities of African descent in more beautiful and beneficial ways than the community inherited.
Imani (Faith): the belief in family, heritage, leaders, and others that will lead to the victory of Africans around the world.
Symbols of Kwanzaa
Mazao (Crops): these crops symbolize African harvesting celebrations as well as the rewards of productivity and collective labor.
Mkeka (Mat): the mat symbolizes the foundation of the African Diaspora—tradition and heritage.
Kinara (Candleholder): the candle holder symbolizes African roots.
Muhindi (Corn): corn represents children and the future, which belongs to them. Mishumaa Saba (Seven Candles): emblematic of Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. These candles embody the values of the African Diaspora.
Kikombe cha Umoja (Unity Cup): symbolizes the foundation, principle, and practice of unity.
Zawadi (Gifts): represent parental labor and love. Also symbolizes the commitments that parents make to their children.
Bendera (Flag): the colors of the Kwanzaa flag are black, red, and green. These colors were originally established as colors of freedom and unity by Marcus Mosaih Garvey. The black is for people; red, the struggles endured; and green, for the future and hope of their struggles.
On the final day we prepared a feast called a Karamu. The feast menu is exciting to design, incorporating dishes from culinary delicacies of the diaspora. Being passionate about the culinary world, this is one of my favorite parts of the holiday is being able to share our traditions and discussions with extended family and friends.
I am feeling ready to start shaping the Kwanzaa book series for families engaging in the holiday. I am planning to create books connected to each of the seven principles. I am looking forward to sharing our holiday over the final feast with close friends and family in upcoming years.