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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book Kwanzaa: The Celebration
by Unknown
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Group: Kwanzaa
Language: English



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Preparation

There is a traditionally established way of celebrating Kwanzaa. We should therefore observe these guidelines to make our Kwanzaa the most beautiful and engaging one and to keep the tradition. Without definite guidelines and core values and practices there is no holiday.

First, you should come to the celebration with a profound respect for its values, symbols and practices and do nothing to violate its integrity, beauty and expansive meaning.

Secondly, you should not mix the Kwanzaa holiday or its symbols, values and practice with any other culture. This would violate the principles of Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) and thus violate the integrity of the holiday.

Thirdly, choose the best and most beautiful items to celebrate Kwanzaa. This means taking time to plan and select the most beautiful objects of art, colorful African cloth, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. so that every object used represents African culture and your commitment to the holiday in the best of ways.

Procedures

First, a central place in the home for the Kwanzaa Set, the symbols of Kwanzaa is chosen. A table is then spread with a beautiful piece of African cloth. Then, the mkeka (mat) is placed down and all of the other symbols are placed on it or immediately next to it to symbolize our rootedness in our tradition. Next the Kinara (candle holder) is placed on the mat and the Mishumaa Saba (seven candles) are placed in the kinara (candle holder).

The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. Therefore there is one black candle, three red and three green candles. These are the mishumaa saba (the seven candles) and they represent the seven principles. The black candle represents the first principle Umoja (unity) and is placed in the center of the kinara. The red candles represent the principles of Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujamaa (cooperative economics) and Kuumba (creativity) and are placed to the left of the black candle. The green candles represent the principles of Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Nia (purpose) and Imani (faith) and are placed to the right of the black candle. The black candle is lit first on the first day of the celebration. And the remaining candles are lit afterwards from left to right on the following days. This procedure is to indicate that the people come first, then the struggle and then the hope that comes from the struggle.

And then the mazao (crops), and ears of corn are also placed on the mkeka. At least two ears of corn are placed down on the mat regardless of whether there are children in the immediate family or not for the children of the community belong to all of us and every adult in African tradition is considered an immediate or social parent. Next the kikombe cha umoja (the Unity cup) is then placed on the mkeka (mat). It is used to pour tambiko (libation) to the ancestors in remembrance and honor of those who paved the path down which we walk and who taught us the good, the Tamshi and the beautiful in life. Then African art objects and books on the life and culture of African people are also placed on or next to the mat to symbolize our commitment to heritage and learning.

Daily Practices

Each evening the family gathers to light the candles. The candle corresponding to the principle of the day is lit. On the first evening the family lights the black center candle for unity. On the second day of Kwanzaa the family again lights the black candle for unity and the red candle for Kujichagulia (self- determination). On the third evening, the black and red candles are relit and the green candle for Ujima (collective work and responsibility) is lit. This practice of lighting the candles for the principle of the day beginning with the black candle and alternating from left to right, red to green continues throughout the seven days of Kwanzaa until the last candle has been lit on the last day of Kwanzaa. While the candle is lit the principle of the day is discussed. Everyone explains what the Nguzo Saba principle of that day means to them and how they have practiced it during the day. After the discussion, a commitment is made by each and all to practice and promote the particular principle throughout the year. To close out, seven "Harambee" (Swahili for "Let's all pull together") are called out. Also various other activities are organized to practice and promote the principle of the day. These include working together on projects, studying and learning more on African culture, sharing narratives and other literature, poems, dance and drama; and making Kwanzaa items as symbols and/or gifts. All of these are to celebrate the holiday and reaffirm and reinforce family, community and culture.



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