December 23, 2006

FROM THE ARCHIVES: LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING:

Kwanzaa isn't just a black Christmas: It's a cultural thing (J. Caleb Mozzocco , 12/19/02, Columbus Alive)
As far as holidays go, Kwanzaa's a young one. First celebrated in 1966, the late-December African-American cultural observance turns 36 years old this month. And if it feels like an invented tradition, well, that's because it is--but then, so are most holidays. They've all gotta start somewhere, right?

Kwanzaa started with author and educator Maulana Karenga, who wanted to give his fellow African-Americans a non-religious, non-heroic holiday all their own, focused on their culture rather than a particular faith or particular person. [...]

The word comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits." The extra "a" was added to push the letter count up to lucky number seven, to better reflect the Nguzo Saba (seven principles) that are the focus of the observance--Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).

Each principle is the focus of one of the seven days of the season, and each is represented by one of the seven red, green and black candles held in a special candleholder called the kinara. Starting December 26, a different candle is lighted each day (not unlike the Christian Advent wreath or Jewish menorah).

While the holiday is relatively new, many of the customs Karenga based it on are among the oldest we know of. Inspired by a variety of African year-end harvest fests, the celebration includes symbolic items like the mkeka, a straw mat representing African culture, and the kikombe, a cup symbolizing unity. The holiday climaxes with the karamu (feast) on December 31 and a quiet day of reflection on January 1. Gifts that accentuate education and culture are given to children--often drums and books instead of toy guns and videogames.


Happy Kwanzaa.
(Originally posted: 12/26/02) Posted by Orrin Judd at December 23, 2006 10:33 PM
Comments

Have they investigated the significance of the fact that Rudolph has a "red" nose?

Posted by: dcj at December 27, 2002 7:49 AM

Bwah, Huumbwug!

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 27, 2002 1:52 PM

The notion that Kwanzaa has something to do with African culture presupposes that there is such a thing. Of course, there is not. Hundreds of mutually unintelligible languages, geographic barriers separating ethnic groups, and, of course, non-literacy. If I were a Negro-hating racist plotter, I would be hard put to dream up something more destructive to that race than cultural fantasies estranging them further from Western civilization

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 28, 2002 10:22 PM
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