A Celebration of African-American Culture
Kwanzaa is a relatively new American holiday celebrated in December, the same month Hanukkah and Christmas are observed. Unlike the two religious holidays, Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural seven-day celebration that begins Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 1.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University, created this event in 1966 to celebrate African heritage. The word, Kwanzaa, in Swahili means first fruits. Each of the seven days focuses on one of the principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. (There are books and websites that provide additional information on Kwanzaa.)
My children and I have observed this celebration for more than 40 years. Now, we are observing the cultural event with my grandchildren, and we are looking forward to my two young great grandsons joining us.
At first, the observance was held in my home, but for the last 10 years, we have all gathered at my son’s home in Alexandria, Virginia, for the seven-day event. This is an ideal location since there are so many institutions and monuments related to our heritage that we can incorporate into our observance. The family has visited the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument during our celebration.
Our family begins our Kwanzaa celebration in the evening with Scripture, prayer and a lighting of one of the seven candles. We then recite the principle of the day and one of the children will elaborate on such. We discuss how that principle relates to us as individuals, as a family and as a world. We also remember and honor our loved ones who have passed. Our children and family are at the center of our celebration. Friends usually join us for this gala event.
There is an African proverb: “When an elder dies, a library burns.” Kwanzaa allows me to download so much into my heirs before this library burns.
By Margaret Miller, contributing writer. She is a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and moved to Woodstock 14 years ago. Her writing hobby led her to become a columnist for community and daily newspapers.