Kwanzaa is a unique year-end festival celebrated by the African Americans that was established by Maulana Karenga in 1966. He was a cultural nationalist and this festival is a combination of various harvest festivals from different places of the African continent.
Fact 1 Time and Reason for Celebration
Kwanzaa is celebrated at the end of the year, from the 26th of December to 1st January. This was celebrated initially by the cultural nationalists to express solidarity of pan-African community. Its idea was to help all African Americans to reconnect with their African heritage. It has now become a tradition where people from all walks of life and leanings celebrate then seven days with great fun and fervor. It is a time of self-examination, feasting and fasting for over 18 million people. A traditional menu consisting of African American cuisines are served during this time. The word Kwanzaa means “first fruits of harvest”.
Fact 2 Significance of Number Seven
It is amazing to see the importance that has been given to the numeral seven. The word Kwanzaa also has seven letters and the tradition consists of 7 Principles and 7 Primary Symbols. They stress the values and ideals of the festival during the 7 days of celebration. Although about 2000 languages are spoken around the African continent, the unifying language of Swahili has been adopted and Kwanzaa in Swahili means first fruits. Unity is the theme of this festival and in 2016, Kwanzaa will be celebrated for the 50th year.
Fact 3 Importance of the 7 principles and symbols
The 7 principles of Kwanzaa are extremely important and are the basics of this festival. They are namely unity, self-determination, responsibility and collective work, purpose, cooperative economics, creativity and faith. The seven symbols are crops, mat, candle-holder, corn, unity cup, gifts and seven candles.
Fact 4 The 3 colors
The three colors of the Kwanzaa reflect the Pan-African movement of unity. Each color denotes a different meaning like green stands for the rich Greenery and hope of Africa, Black represents its people and Red represents the noble blood of all the ancestors of African people and their struggle that unites them together. Although this festival has its roots in the African culture, people from all races and ethnicity are invited with open arms to join in the festival of unity and have fun and enjoyment for the seven days. Many people decorate their homes with these three colors. There is no distinction of caste, creed or color in this unique cultural gathering. Celebrities too take part in this festival like Oprah, Chuck D, Maya Angelou, Cynthia Saint James and Angelina Jolie.
Fact 5 Gifts with a personal touch
At the end of the celebration of this fabulous festival filled with happiness and gaiety, gifts are exchanged among family members and friends. It is a tradition here that the gifts are homemade or related to education. Hence most of the women folk make exotic handicrafts items at home to give to their dear ones. It has the touch of love and togetherness which is treasured by these people. Some participants buy books or educational equipments, music or art accessories or products that have a cultural theme in them and these are bought mostly from shops owned by black businessmen.
Fact 6 Involvement of the US Presidents
In spite of not taking active part in the Kwanzaa celebrations, the presidents of the USA wish the nation on this occasion. George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama and his wife Michelle send messages and offer good wishes for this festival and express their support for all African Americans who are still trying hard to make all ends meet. They wish for a better future for all on this special occasion. Four separate Kwanzaa stamps have also been issued since 1997.