Are you a late adopter of Kwanzaa? You are not alone and this post is for you. Why? Because if you are anything like me, most African American holidays and celebrations exist in principle but not in application. Since Kwanzaa isn't commercialized and at least in my immediate circle of influence, not colonized, it is a holiday that is recognized but not as heavily valued or celebrated. If you are here, it's because you are ready to embrace Kwanzaa and everything it represents.
Photo Credit: The Parent Voice
Historically, many African Americans don’t know much about their ancestral heritage having integrated into American culture and beliefs due to slavery. As much as we would like to know exactly where we are from, what our ancestors believed and practiced, many of us don't and fewer are traveling to Africa to find out.
Fast forward from the Middle Passage to 1966 when Dr. Maulana Karenga created the Pan-African holiday we know as Kwanzaa to bridge the gap between where we are from to where we are today. From December 26--January 1, Kwanzaa places emphasis on family, community, and culture through Nguzo Saba, the 7 Principles as pictured above. "Participants also celebrate in feasts (karamu), music, dance, poetry, narratives and end the holiday with a day dedicated to reflection and recommittment to The Seven Principles and other central cultural values."
Central to Kwanzaa are the mkeka (mat), the kikombe cha umoja (the Unity cup), the Kinara (candle holder) to be placed on the mat and the Mishumaa Saba (seven candles). These can be ordered at most local cultural centers in your community. If your neighborhood does not have a Pan-African cultural center, buying these items online from black owned businesses is your next move. I found many on Etsy! Yup, shops like Umoja Shop, MamaJojoVegan, Holidayheavenwood, KeleAfrique, Utopia Africa Designs sale the symbols of Kwanzaa.
Photo credit: Uwishunu
Kwanzaa is said to be celebrated by millions world-wide but the how-to for many still needs more clarity. Per the Official Kwanzaa website, the black candle is lit first on the first day of the celebration. And the remaining candles are lit afterwards from left to right on the following days. This procedure is to indicate that the people come first, then the struggle and then the hope that comes from the struggle.