Kwanzaa 2015: When It Is, How To Celebrate, Recipes And More!

Christmas may be just around the corner, but immediately following it is Kwanzaa, a pan-African holiday that celebrates ancient African cultures. Established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, founder and chairman of the Black Nationalist Organization, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January 1.

Not meant as a replacement for Christmas, Kwanzaa got its name from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” alluding to the first-fruit celebrations in Africa thanking gods for the harvest. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa honors a different principle, with every principle believed to have been integral in the establishment of strong, productive families and communities in Africa.

The principles in question are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

During the celebration, a candle holder — referred to as ‘kinara’ — sets up seven candles, each representing one of the Kwanzaa principles. Celebrants greet each other with “Habarani gani (What’s the news)?” and the principles of Kwanzaa form the answers.

When celebrating Kwanzaa, observers are instructed to avoid mixing symbols of the holiday with other celebrations, like Christmas. Furthermore, families get together for the great feast of karamu on December 31, which may be celebrated at a home, community center, or church.

Some traditional African dishes are served, as well as dishes featuring ingredients Africans brought to the United States, such as sesame seeds (benne), peanuts (groundnuts), sweet potatoes, collard greens, and spicy sauces.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken is a great option to consider serving guests for Kwanza, what with its array of spices marinated into the meat. Another dish for the holiday is a good serving of Black Bean and Rice Salad; it’s hearty and filling, and most importantly, delicious. One other popular choice is Sweet Potato Souffle, which is the perfect culmination of the African culture and its delicacies.

It is especially at karamu where Kwanzaa is celebrated with the colors red, black, and green, as these three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa that gained new recognition through the efforts of Marcus Garvey’s Black Nationalist movement. Green symbolizes the fertile land of Africa, black for the color of the people, and red for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom.

Kwanzaa 2015

Each candle represents one of the Kwanzaa principles. (Image source: Wikimedia)

Additionally, gift-giving is also practiced during Kwanzaa, but it is ideal that some of the presents are educational in nature. “Gifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol,” says the official Kwanzaa website.

“The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Egypt, and the heritage symbol to affirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history.”

Happy Kwanzaa 2015, everybody!

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About the author

Regina is a Fine Arts graduate who expresses herself through various mediums. She finds amusement in pop culture, enjoys video games, and watches way too many YouTube videos on a daily basis.