What is Quanza?

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Quanza refers to a celebration among black people in the US in other parts of the Americas.  More popularly known as Kwanzaa, “Quanza” was first celebrated back in 1966 as a way of honoring the African roots of all black people across the US and in other countries.  The celebration is held around Christmas time for 7 days starting on the 26th of December and ending on the New Year or January 1st.  With the event celebrated around the holiday and Christmas season, many people think of Quanza or Kwanzaa as a religious festival but the real reason for the festival is actually cultural.  The main reason for the Quanza or Kwanzaa celebration is to have Black people remember their African roots and honor their own culture and tradition by way of reconnecting with other black Americans.

Quanza or Kwanzaa is said to be based upon African celebrations of harvest.  From the Swahili term “matunda ya kwanza” referring to “first fruits”, Kwanzaa is also celebrated as some kind of thanksgiving for the uniqueness of black Americans and their African heritage.  The week-long celebration is also done to promote the culture and way of life of African-Americans living in the US.  The 7 days of revelry and celebration represents 7 different principles which are collectively referred to as Nguzo Saba.  These seven principles are unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperation, purpose, creativity, and faith.  These principles are celebrated as the supposed core values of each black American in terms of honoring and remembering their African heritage.

Typical Kwanzaa or Quanza celebrations involve different activities for the entire week.  Families decorate their homes with tribal cloths and accessories.  Many black Americans also wear special tribal costumes during their celebration of Quanza.  People also gather in formal ceremonies that involve reading of the African Pledge and the playing of traditional African music. There are also candle-lighting rituals that are typically done before the food feast.  Various crops and fruits are prepared on the table for the Quanza or Kwanzaa feast.

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