The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


December 19, 2012

Kwanzaa a celebration of family, tradition and community

Kwanzaa, a time of reflection celebrated by African-Americans worldwide, will be observed Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

The cultural holiday was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, who saw a need for all African-Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs, to come together and celebrate family, tradition and community.

Similar to the celebration of New Year’s Eve, Kwanzaa represents the passing of the old year and the welcoming of a new one.

The name Kwanzaa comes from an African harvest celebration, Matunda ya Kwaza, which means “first fruits” in Swahili.

Ancient traditions are revisited, and the rich history of the African culture is renewed through the reassertion of family values and community.

African roots are observed much as they were during ancient times when harvest or first fruit celebrations represented five functions, which included the reaffirmation of people to bond together, giving thanks to the creator, recognizing and honoring ancestors, honoring cultural values and celebrating life as a family and community.

Every African-American is given the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the ancient bonds which serve to strengthen their own identity in particular and as part of the world community in general.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Seven candles – three red, one black and three green – are lit, one day at a time during Kwanzaa.

The red candles represent the blood of African-Americans from slavery through the civil rights movement.

Black candles represent the faces of the African-American people.

Green candles are for future hopes and dreams.

Other symbols include an ear of corn to represent each child; fruits and vegetables to show how God has blessed the harvest; and handmade gifts for everyone.

In celebrating Kwanzaa, a straw mat represents a good foundation from which to build, and a special candle holder represents the ancestral background from which all African-Americans stem.

Kwanzaa dishes can include sweet potato pie, black-eyed peas and rice, corn bread, collard greens, fried chicken and candied yams.

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