Examining A Different December Holiday: Kwanza

If you were to be asked to list some of your favorite holidays, what would you say? Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween maybe? Within the United States, these particular holidays along with a few others are for the most part universally acknowledged and understood. Maybe not so much the history and meaning behind them but the traditions that are still played out. People usually grasp most of their understanding of these major holiday traditions by what transpires in their own household during the season as well as environmental observations. Such observations would include holiday decorations, movies, music, the way people dress, what particular items are being spotlighted at stores and all the advertising that goes along with it.

What most people tend to leave unnoticed or forgotten about is one particular week long holiday that takes place right in the center of all the holiday season action. From Dec 26 to Jan 1, a mere half to 2 million people in the United States still carry out the holiday of Kwanza.

Kwanza was founded in 1966 in order to celebrate pride in African American history and to reconnect with ones African culture and historical heritage. The entirety of the holiday celebration is built on a foundation of seven principles: Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat on which other symbols are placed, corn and other crops, a candle holder with seven candles, called a kinara, a communal cup for pouring libations, gifts, a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles. Families celebrating Kwanza often decorate their houses with objects that represent African idealism and cultural art. You are likely to find colorful cloths and fresh fruit around the house of a participating family.

Despite its steady decline in popularity since 2004, Kwanza has since spread to Canada and still remains to be a festive and active holiday in many households across America and still holds strong as a beacon of spirituality and pride in the African American culture.

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