The Wrangler

What and Where is Kwanzaa?

The Kwanzaa flag represents the people (black) , their struggle (red), the future and hope that comes from their struggle (green), and it ties together African roots celebrated during Kwanzaa.

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The Kwanzaa flag represents the people (black) , their struggle (red), the future and hope that comes from their struggle (green), and it ties together African roots celebrated during Kwanzaa.

Jaylin Mandley, Editor

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Christmas lights can be seen flashing in nearly every neighborhood in Yorba Linda, but if a flag of green, black, and red is spotted, people might scratch their heads as to what holiday it belongs to. Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates family, community, and culture. From December 26 through January 1, millions throughout the world African community celebrate Kwanzaa, an ancient and living cultural tradition that reflects the best of African thought and practice in its “reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture” (The Official Kwanzaa Website).

 

A significant notion about Kwanzaa is that it is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, thus available to and practiced by Africans of all religious faiths who come together based on their reflection of their culture. Kwanzaa introduces and reinforces seven basic values, the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles, to honor the African culture by building and reinforcing family, community, and culture amongst African American people. There are seven days of Kwanzaa, and each day emphasizes a specific principle of the Seven Principles. The Seven Principles are building blocks for community, and they include Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). As well as the Seven Principles, Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols, each an emphasis of one of the Seven Principles, that reflect on African culture and contribute to community building and reinforcement. These basic symbols that impact the celebration of Kwanzaa are Mazao (Crops), Mkeka (Mat), Kinara (Candle Holder), Muhindi (Corn), Mishumaa Saba (Seven Candles), Kikombe cha Umoja (Unity Cup), and Zawadi (Gifts).

 

Kwanzaa is celebrated similarly as other holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah. On each day of Kwanzaa a candle is lit, like Hanukkah, and on the last day gifts are exchanged, just like Christmas. Decorations for Kwanzaa such as beautiful pieces of art, colorful African cloth, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other symbols to represent the Seven Principles and African culture are displayed just like lights and dreidels would be for Christmas and Hanukkah. The final day of Kwanzaa is known as the Day of Assessment  or Day of Meditation, and it is also the beginning of the new year. The idea on this day is to “maintain a quiet, humble, and calm attitude with regard to oneself and towards one’s neighbors,” while also exchanging gifts amongst family and friends (The Official Kwanzaa Website). Meagan Iida (9) had heard of Kwanzaa before, but never really understood it, and now that she does, she believes that it “seems to be an empowering holiday to recognize one’s culture, just like that of several other holidays people celebrate.”

 

Although different from more popular holidays, Kwanzaa is a worldwide holiday recognized by many as a fundamental part of their culture. Similar to holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa is significant in establishing a sense of culture and community amongst its participants.

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