Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday
about the festival of the first harvest of the crops. It begins on December
26, and lasts for seven days. The name Kwanzaa, sometimes spelled Kwanza, comes
from a phrase which means "first fruits" in Swahili, an East African
language. It is a week-long holiday honoring African culture and traditions.
Maulana Karenga, an African-American leader, proposed this observance and it
was first celebrated between December 1966 and January 1967.
1. During the preparation phase, in the
week before Kwanzaa, the greeting "Habari Gani" is used with the response
"Nzuri Kwanzaa, Nguzo Saba"
2. Some celebrants undergo a week of fasting before Kwanzaa to cleanse the body,
discipline the mind, and uplift the spirit.
3. Once Kwanzaa starts, the response to the greeting "Habari Gani"
changes. The response changes to the the principle which is being emphasized
that day. For example, "Umoja" the first day, "Kujichagulia"
the second day, and so on.
4. On the first day of Kwanzaa (December 26) the Mfume (leader or minister)
calls the family together. When everyone is present, the Mfume greets them;
Habari Gani, and the family responds Umoja. Thus the Kwanzaa celebration has
begun. The celebration is conducted in the following order, substituting each
principle for the response on its respective day.
1. A prayer is offered by a member
of the family (all standing).
2. Harambee (Let's Pull Together) is a call for unity and collective work
and struggle of the family.
1. Each member raises up the right arm with open hand and while pulling
down, closes the hand into a fist.
2. Harmabee is done in sets of seven in honor and reinforcement of the Nguzo
3. The Kwanzaa Song can be used at
4. The Mfume briefly talks about the concept of Kwanzaa, using the theme
or focus of Kwanzaa as a sense of direction.
5. The Tambiko (Libation) is performed by an elder. The elder should pour
the libation using juice or water from the Tambiko set up in honor of our
6. Harambee Symbol.
7. Greeting should be done by the family member (preferably a youth) assigned
the lighting of Mshumaa (candle).
8. Lighting Ceremony is performed by the Youth. The Youth should light the
Mshumaa (candle) for the principle of the day (i.e. Umoja (Unity) on the
first day of Kwanzaa). After the lighting, the principle of the day should
be discussed by every member participating in the ceremony. The discussion
should focus on each member's understanding of the principle and their commitment
and responsibility to practice that principle for the betterment of self,
family and Black people..
10. A story, song or an object that is reflective of the principle for the
day (i.e. Umoja (Unity) Black Frying Pan) and a Scripture reading related
to the principle is essential in reinforcing the meaning of that principle.
11. Share Zawadi (Gifts). In Kwanzaa
gifts are played down and spiritual and social rejuvenation is played up.
Hand made gifts are strongly encouraged over commercial purchases. Items
related to the Black heritage or items that have a special meaning that
will help the person through the next year are strongly recommended. The
gifts should be reflective of a commitment to education and the riches of
our cultural heritage and a sign of the struggle for liberation for Black
people. The gifts can be fruits shared each night by members. The gifts
can be given to the children in one of two ways: One gift can be given each
day to reinforce the principle for that day, or on December 31 st. during
the Karamu (Feast), all gifts can be given.
5. Karamu (Feast) is held on the night
of December 31 st. and includes food, music, dance, etc.
6. The Kwanzaa Song can be repeated as often as is wished for elevation of the