The Kwanzaa Feast

The Kwanzaa Karamu (Kwanzaa Feast) is a time to celebrate the rich history, traditions and food of African-American culture. This is a very brief, general outline of the holiday, not instructions on how to start your own traditions.

While Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, created in 1966 by Maulana (Ron) Karenga, it does have a rich tradition rooted in many years of African culture and history. Kwanzaa literally means "first fruits of the harvest" in Swahili. While there has never been a festival to celebrate Kwanzaa in African-American culture, the gathering of a harvest has been celebrated in a wide variety of festivals. Karenga combined many of the aspects of these traditional festivals into the holiday that we now know as Kwanzaa.

There are many misconceptions about the purpose of Kwanzaa. It is not a religious holiday, nor does celebrating Kwanzaa mean giving up the celebrations of Christmas or Hanukkah. It is a weeklong celebration full of ceremony and symbolism, and follows a well-organized "schedule." On each night, a candle is lit and one of the Nguzo Saba -- seven core principles -- is discussed.

 

The following is a list of the Nguzo Saba and Karenga's description of what they mean.

Umoja - Unity: To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia - Self-determination: To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others.

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