It’s the first day of Kwanzaa!

Photo by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash

Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, which honors African heritage here in the United States. The holiday is observed for one week and ends on January 1, when gifts are exchanged and tables are laden with good food. The week-long celebration can include singing, dancing, storytelling, and drumming.

This holiday was created in 1966, making it new on the U.S. holiday calendar. A professor of African Studies at California State University, Dr. Maulana Karenga, began the holiday in response to the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles, California. He wanted to help return the African-American population to feeling like a community.

Kwanzaa follows seven core principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

To observe these principles, Kwanzaa uses symbols: nuts, fruits, and vegetables to symbolize the crops and the work to maintain them; a placemat to show the foundation upon which people have built their lives; an ear of corn for fertility and to promote children and the future; seven candles, usually red, green, and black, to recreate the sun’s power, which is essential for the harvest; and a candleholder to represent ancestry.

The unity cup is used on the sixth day to honor ancestors and to represent unity and remembrance.

Gifts are given on the seventh day and handmade gifts are encouraged.

If you celebrate Kwanzaa, I hope you have a memorable week. Sonja