Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that celebrates the African community, family and values. Read on to get a glimpse as to why it’s important.
(AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Eugene Garcia)
The celebration of Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. It’s a time for people of African heritage to celebrate their culture and its history.
Kwanzaa lasts seven days, taking place from December 26th to January 1st.
The celebration was founded in 1966 in the United States, and Canada began to celebrate it in 1993. The word kwanzaa comes from the Swahili language and means “first fruits.”
Kwanzaa is celebrated with many ceremonies throughout the week.
People often decorate their homes in the colours of the Pan-African flag: red, green and black.
People may wear traditional African clothing — women might wear a colourful robe called a kaftan, while men wear a bright shirt called a dashiki (say "da-SHE-KEE").
An important tradition in Kwanzaa has to do with a candle holder called the kinara.
It holds seven candles, including three red ones, three green ones and a single black candle.
Each day during Kwanzaa, one candle is lit, so that all of them will be burning brightly come the seventh day.
Every candle represents a different value of African culture. They are:
Each value is discussed by families during Kwanzaa, as the candles are lit.
There are seven central symbols of Kwanzaa. They represent African values and the community.
The first is the kinara, the candle holder that holds the seven candles. It symbolizes African heritage.
The candles themselves are another symbol and are meant to be a sign of light during the seven days.
The rest of the symbols are placed near the kinara. These include:
A special feast, called karamu (say "ka-RAH-mu"), is held on December 31st, the sixth day of Kwanzaa. Sometimes this meal is held in a church or community centre.
Traditional African dishes are served and may include items like beans, rice, stew, chicken and countless sweet desserts.
On January 1st, the last day of Kwanzaa, families exchange gifts that are often homemade, which are known as zawadi (say "za-WAH-dee").
(AP Photo/The Herald-Sun, Christine T. Nguyen)