Kwanzaa is an African American cultural tradition celebrated annually from December 26th to January 1st. To celebrate this holiday through the seven principles of Kwanzaa, is by paying homage to the heritage and values, culminating in song, music, poetry, storytelling, and a communal feast called Karamu.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of Africana Studies at California State University, created the ceremony in the United States in 1966. He made this ceremony based on the harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa, including West and Southeast Africa, to honor the ancestors, reinforce community bonds, and share the joy of African American culture.
The name, Kwanzaa, comes from the saying “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “first fruits” in Swahili. The saying symbolizes the celebration of the harvest, new life, and abundance for the new year revolving around the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa
I remember learning about the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa from my Aunt Sharon’s Black Family Life Center. I used to teach there every summer during my teenage years. These principles are very close to my heart and are ingrained in my soul. They are the driving force to help me build community.
How to Celebrate The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa and Carry Them All Year Long
I would love to share these principles with you + actions to inspire you to celebrate the spirit of Kwanzaa and carry it into your life every day of the year.
Principle 1: Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Connect with your family and community by honoring the memory of an ancestor or loved one by sharing how they contributed to the community. There are beautiful benefits of belonging to a community that include giving and getting the support you need on your holistic health journey.
Principle 2: Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
You have a right and responsibility to exist as a people. Make your unique contribution to the “forward flow of human history,” as stated by Dr. Karenga. Commit and practice daily defining, defending, and developing your true self. Practice this instead of allowing or encouraging others to do it for you.
Principle 3: Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibilities)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
Come together with others in the common interest of restoring what was damaged or destroyed by racial/social/civil injustice and unrest. Consider everyone (not just your blood relative) to be your brother and sister. Help them and collaborate with them to solve problems that still exist in the community today. Bring everyone closer together by showing empathy and compassion towards each other’s problems. Give your best and do your part by attending community events, societal discussions and voting at local and national elections.
Principle 4: Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Learn as much as we can in communal gatherings to create your resources. This includes businesses, food, schools, books, computers, and public transportation. All the things that society needs to live and be happy.
Principle 5: Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
To have a purpose is to have a deeper reason behind everything you do. Study about your ancestors who made great sacrifices. Sacrifices like giving their lives so that life would be better for the generations to come. Consider reflecting on the “why” behind different areas of your life (career, relationships, personal). What is important to you? Can you clearly list your priorities? What difference are you looking to make in this world? Make it your life’s purpose to make life better for those coming behind you. This purpose is so they can make their lives better from your example.
Principe 6: Kuumba (Creativity)
To always do as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
You are creative, with divine talents and abilities that make you great. How you think, interact, and perform has the potential of you leaving the world more beautiful than you found it. Integrate more activities in your everyday life that spark inspiration and creativity like dancing, painting, playing music, and writing.
Principle 7: Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
We all have different ways of connecting to something greater than ourselves. Live each day with spiritual intention by tapping into your inner spirit through meditation. Or create affirmations and personal “prayer” to receive divine guidance and connect with your future or higher self.
Practice the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa and Carry the Spirit of Kwanzaa With You All Year Long
Traditionally, on each day of Kwanzaa, the family talks about the day’s principle. They share how they will continue practicing it in the coming year. Seven candles symbolize the seven principles, and the lighting of the candles represents the start of Kwanzaa.
For the children and the community, it’s vital for African American families to come together in practicing Kwanzaa. It’s equally vital for other cultures to incorporate a piece of these principles in their personal lives. As an African American I love to share and celebrate the greatness of my people. There are so many cultures celebrating their heritage and honoring their ancestry at this time of year.
What are you celebrating?