When Christmas comes to an end, Kwanzaa celebrations begin. Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African-American culture which is held from December 26th to January 1st, ending with a gift-giving and feast of faith, called Karamu Ya Imani. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga a California professor of African Studies, activist and author, He created this holiday in response to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965 as a way to bring African-Americans together as a community. The holiday is relatively new, compared to other holidays celebrated in the States, it was first celebrated in 1966.
As an African-American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community, Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense,” Karenga said.
Dr. Karenga researched African harvest celebrations and combined aspects of several different celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the foundation of Kwanzaa. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase matunda ya kwanza which means first fruits, or harvest, in Swahili. Each day of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to a unique principle.
He stresses that Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, and was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday.
So basically the African Americans reconnect with their roots and heritage through the festivities of Kwanzaa.
Apart from these traditional theories about the festival, here are some interesting facts you may not know about this annual celebration. Read on.
1. Kwanzaa will be celebrating its 56th Birthday in 2020
It’s been 56 years of Kwanzaa foundation. The holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 to celebrate family, culture, and heritage, and is modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa.
2. The Number Seven
There are 7 Principles and 7 Primary Symbols that emphasize a unique set of values and ideals during the 7 days of Kwanzaa… also spelled with 7letters.
3. Umoja is Unity
With over 2000 languages spoken on the African continent, Kwanzaa adopted one of the many unifying languages, Swahili, which is spoken by millions on the African continent. The name Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits.”
4. Red, Black, and Green
The colors of Kwanzaa are a reflection of the Pan-African movement representing “unity” for peoples of African descent worldwide: Black for the people, red for the noble blood that unites all people of African ancestry, and green for the rich land of Africa.
5. Stamp That!
The first US postage stamp to commemorate Kwanzaa was issued in 1997. There have been 5 designs released since then, the most recent design came out in 2016.
6. A Universal Message
Kwanzaa is rooted in African culture, however, people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are welcomed to join in the celebration.
7. Star Power
Celebrities who have been known to celebrate Kwanzaa every year include Oprah, Maya Angelou, Chuck D, Angelina Jolie, and Synthia Saint James (who designed the first Kwanzaa postage stamp).