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Kwanzaa is a week long celebration held in the United States honoring universal African-American heritage and culture, observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. It features activities such as lighting a candle holder with seven candles and culminates in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966-1967.
Kwanzaa celebrates what Dr. Karenga called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba-the seven principles of African Heritage), which he said "is a communitarian African philosophy," consisting of what Karenga called "the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world." These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:
- Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together.
- Ujamaa (family): The belief in family and general communal understanding.
- Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
- Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
- Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Kwanzaa symbols include:
- A Decorative Mat on which other symbols are placed
- Corn and other crops
- A candle holder with seven candles, called a Kinar
- A communal cup for pouring libations
- A poster of the seven principles
- A black, red, and green flag
The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles and have deep meaning for those who celebrate these special days.
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