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.
After the candles have been lit, what do you do? Here are a few more items from black owned businesses to incorporate into your week of Kwanzaa festivities.
The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili. Have tropical fruits delivered to you from Fruits N' Rootz.
Black History Flash Cards are the size of playing cards, perfectly sized for travel, created to tell bulleted Black achievements in the arts, academia, business, civil rights are more.
The Sekou Family are the founders of Kujichagulia Press, illustrated books created to teach children about our culture, traditions, and contributions made by our ancestors and elders.
I meet author Leticia McFadden at a prior Kwanzaa event in Maryland. She is the owner of Adelani Treasure were you can find Afro-centric collectibles and educational workbooks filled with crossword puzzles, vocabulary words, and inspirational quotes inspired by Black excellence.
Kwanzaa doesn't require a gift at all; it's a celebration of community - COMMON UNITY. But if you just need to give or get a gift, you can't beat the gift of quality time. Spend time being creative with those in your tribe by candle-crafting, wood-carving, wine-making, herb gardening, recipe sharing, quilting or painting (and sipping). These activities all embody the spirit of Kwanzaa.