Festival which marks community oneness, spirit of joy, harvest season and customary principles is Kwanzaa. Explore the history of Kwanzaa to know the details of this only African-American festival which is internationally acclaimed and is celebrated worldwide.

Kwanzaa history and origin

History of Kwanzaa dates back in 1966. This African American festival was initiated and developed by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga on 26th December. The festival starts from 26th December to 1st January. The celebrations are week long and each day symbolizes one important principle. The seven principles are traditionally named as, ‘Nguzo Saba’.

This foremost African American holiday is derived from ‘matunda ya kwanza’ which is a Swahili phrase. The term means first fruits. Swahili is the choice because of its base in East Africa that reflects the status symbol of Pan Africanism of the 1960s. This traditional festival marks the harvest seasons in different cultures of Africa. People from both Africa and African-American ethnicity follow the customs of Kwanzaa. On discovering the history you would find that Kwanzaa roots are in black nationalistic movements.

The main idea behind the celebrations of Kwanzaa is to provide cultural identity to the African community. Its focus is on the seven principles which have boasted the African community and traditions.

The major social and political changes in the sixties decade resulted in the emergence of Kwanzaa. This era marks the revolutionary period of African and African-American struggle for freedom. At this time when this festival was conceived by Karenga it resulted in solving cultural and economical differences.

Nguzo Saba – seven principles of Kwanzaa

  • 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 (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • 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.

Present celebrations – Kwanzaa

To commemorate this festival the United States Postal Services issued the first Kwanzaa stamp on 22nd October 199. This was one of the artworks by Synthia Saint James. In the 2004, another stamp was released which was designed by Daniel Minter. This stamp had seven figures in colorful robes and each signified one principle of Nguzu Saba.

There was also, a film which was released in the year 2009. The movie narrated a documentary “The Black Candle” which was created by Maya Angelou. It was one of the award winning short films about Kwanzaa.

Wish you all enjoy the celebrations and hope you find the information on history of Kwanzaa interesting.