Just like Hanukkah and Christmas, Kwanzaa takes place during the month of December, specifically from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Also like Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa has a large and devoted following. Here are five things that you should know about the upcoming holiday:
1. It is a fairly new holiday
Dating back to only the 1960s, Kwanzaa is a fairly new holiday. While it may not have a long tenure like Hanukkah or Christmas, the time period in which it was created is significant–– Kwanzaa emerged during a time of black empowerment in a racially-charged America. Associate professor of employment law and legal studies Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander said that she feels that the creation of Kwanzaa was a search for African Americans to create something that was their own at a time when they were not included in much.
“We began to see all sorts of manifestations of rejection and a search to create our own version of things,” Bennett-Alexander said. “From clothes to cooking, from curriculum to celebrations, alternatives were sought.”
2. Red, black and green
These are the traditional colors associated with Kwanzaa, and each has its own meaning. Black is for the people. This color represents the Africans and African Americans who are connected through their heritage, ancestors and race. The color red symbolises the struggle of the people and the blood that they have shed in America and abroad for the equality and freedom of their people. The color green represents the future and hope that has come from this struggle. Furthermore, it can also symbolize the fertile land in Africa.
3. The principles of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa has seven principles, one for each day that the holiday is celebrated. These principles also pertain to the colors mentioned above. The black candle represents Umoja, a Swahili word meaning unity. The three red candles represent Kujichagulia, which is self-determination, Ujamaa, which is cooperative economics, and Kuumba, which is creativity. The three green candles represent Ujima, which is collective work and responsibility, Nia, which is purpose and Imani, which is faith.
4. Do it for the culture
Kwanzaa does not have a religious background like Hanukkah or Christmas. Instead, Kwanzaa is a celebration of culture for Africans and African Americans alike. Part of the creation of the holiday was for African Americans to reconnect with some of the African roots that their enslaved ancestors had to neglect upon their arrival in America. Professor Bennett-Alexander said that parts of the African-American community had a hard time accepting this new holiday because of generational self-hate and a lack of knowledge of their own history.
“Most blacks had been taught all of their lives to look down upon Africa and Africans,” Bennett-Alexander said. “After all, in addition to being taught to reject what was black and Africa, most blacks knew little or nothing about African culture, society or celebrations.”
5. All are welcome
Although Kwanzaa is a holiday mostly designated for Africans and African Americans, those that would like to celebrate the holiday are welcome to. If the principles of the holiday relate to an individual who is not a person of color, he or she is welcome to practice, as long it is not done to ridicule or mimic the holiday or the people that celebrate it.
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