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Celebrating the Seven Principles: A Look into Kwanzaa Traditions

Kwanzaa, is celebrated in the United States from December 26 to January 1. The name and The celebration was developed in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana studies at California State University. Kwanza means “first:" "Southern African first-fruits celebrations."

There are seven symbols for Kwanza: fruits, vegetables, nuts; a straw mat; a candleholder; ears of corn (maize); gifts; a communal cup signifying unity; and seven candles in the African colors of red, green, and black, symbolizing the seven principles.

"On each day the family comes together to light one of the candles in the kinara, or candleholder, and to discuss the principle for the day. On December 31, families join in a community feast called the karamu. Some participants wear traditional African clothing during the celebration. "

Kwanza is to symbolize hope, pride and to honor tradition and encourage people to promote principles of unity, self-love, and community service.

Seven Principles of Kwanzaa:

The Nguzo Saba (or seven guiding principles) are celebrated one-by-one on each day. "To acknowledge the day’s principle, observers gather to light a designated candle on the kinara, a decorative, seven-branch candleholder. In observance, the group may enjoy songs, dancing, African drums, story-telling, poetry reading, and shared meals to represent that principle. "

  1. Umoja (Unity): Emphasizes unity within families and communities.

  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): Encourages individuals to shape their own destinies.

  3. Ujima Collective Work and Responsibility): Promotes collaboration and shared responsibility for community development.

  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): Promotes financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

  5. Nia(Purpose): Empowers setting community-oriented goals..

  6. Kuumba(Creativity): Honors creativity and fosters continuous improvement.

Mishumaa saba are the seven candles: three red, three green and one black. The back candle symbolizes Umoja (unity), the basis of success, and is lit on December 26. The three green candles, are placed to the right of the Umoja candle, while the three red candles, representing are placed to the left of it.

During Kwanzaa, on candle, representing one principle, is lit each day. The other candles are relit to give off more light and vision. "The number of candles burning also indicate the principle that is being celebrated. The illuminating fire of the candles is a basic element of the universe, and every celebration and festival includes fire in some form. Fire’s mystique, like the sun, is irresistible and can destroy or create with its mesmerizing, frightening, mystifying power."

Written and Submitted by GSSAgent#3013

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