Answer your Kwanzaa questions

Hey, Holidayers!

Or should I say Habari Gani? We’re taking a look at December holidays this week. A couple days ago we discussed the history of Hanukkah and yesterday I revealed the reasons behind some of people’s oldest and most popular Christmas traditions.

Today:  Celebrate your African heritage with your family during KwanzaaFirst of all, Habari Gani, as I alluded to above, is the way to greet people throughout the weeklong Kwanzaa celebration. This festive phrase is Swahili for “What’s the news?” Why do you greet one another in Swahili during Kwanzaa? Because Kwanzaa is all about expressing yourself through your African heritage and learning about where you come from.

The celebration of this holiday isn’t quite so old, but the cultural values that it honors are The man who started it all, Maulana Karengaamong the oldest in the world. It was celebrated for the first time in the December of 1966 (and the first day into the new year). This holiday was created by a man named Maulana Karenga. His idea behind Kwanzaa was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”

Kwanzaa spans from December 26 and lasts until January 1. But just because this holiday overlaps with Christmas and New Year’s doesn’t mean missing out on those holidays. Many households incorporate Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day celebrations into their Kwanzaa festivities. After all, gift-giving, feasting, singing, and further merrymaking are already what Kwanzaa’s all about.

A time for togetherness, Kwanzaa is about knowing where you come from and why it's importantThose who have a combined celebration of these holidays will typically find a way to involve an ethnic element in their Christmas and New Year’s observance. In fact, one will often find the kinara, the candleholder in Kwanzaa celebrations, sitting in the same area as the Christmas tree.

Kwanzaa  may have started out small, but it’s really started to catch on in more recent years. In 2004, it was estimated that 4.7 million people planned on celebrating Kwanzaa in the United States. It is claimed, however, that this holiday is recognized all around the world. Though not in an official capacity, Kwanzaa is supposedly recognized in countries like France, Great Britain, Jamaica, Brazil, and others. An estimation of worldwide Kwanzaa celebrators is thought to be around 30 million!

Embrace the Kwanzaa celebration and you’re sure to proudly stay connected to your heritage. Enjoy your families’ holiday festivities this year and thanks for reading!

- John

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