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Creative Ways to Celebrate Kwanzaa

by Karim Orange

One of the positive accomplishments of this year has been a universal understanding and celebration of people of color. Kwanzaa ends this year with just that. Celebration. Created by college professor Maulana Karenga, the seven-day non-religious holiday was created for African- Americans and forged a way of healing in response to the Watts Rebellion in 1966. 

Based on the principles of celebrating and understanding culture, it encourages ways to uplift the spirit and community. Each day, families give small non-materialistic gifts based on the principle of the day. This year, because of social-distance enforcement,  the celebration can not happen in its traditional ways (family, friends and community gatherings). 

During Kwanzaa, which starts on December 26th, you can add to your current holiday decor. Decorate a table with a straw mat (mkeka) with assorted fruits and vegetables (this symbolizes collective labor at harvest). Traditionally there is also a unity cup (Kikombe cha Umoja). In the center of the table is the candle-holder (Kinara) which holds seven candles (three red, one black and one green), to be lit each day to reflect on the different principals.

Here are ways you can celebrate each day and each tradition remote with friends a family : 

Each Day of Kwanzaa you start by saying: “Habari Gani?” which is Swahili for What’s the word? The answer is the day that it corresponds to.  

Day 1: Umoja (Unity): This day is usually celebrated in a group setting. You can still have this. Plan a simple recipe with a group of family and friends and jump on a Zoom meeting. Let the love and laughter flow!

Day 2: Kujichagulia (Self Determination): Have a secret gift (aka Secret Santa) with your tribe. Everyone purchases a 2021 planner that you embellish with fabric inspired by the person receiving it. Invite everyone involved to a Zoom meeting and share the planner. 

The person receiving it shares specific goals and dates, they want to be written in for next year, on the Zoom call. You write in the information, send the planner, and follow up to help with their goals for next year. 

Day 3: Ujima (collective work and responsibility): Create a recipe book with your friend’s and families’ recipes. Decorate the recipe book, and send it to someone. Each week (or when time permits make the recipe together for dinner).

Day 4: Ujamaa ( Cooperative Economics): Support and purchase from black-owned businesses and brands. Assign different people in your tribe different categories and have them create a list (beauty, clothing, online classes, etc). Share the list with each other.

Day 5: Purpose (Nia): Sometimes we forget to remind people of their purpose in our lives. Take this day to reflect on your own and encourage someone else. 

Day 6: Kuumba (Creativity): This is a great day to involve the kids on the Zoom call! Have them create plays, sing songs, dance, and share artwork. Don’t have kids? Adult friends and family will work. Be creative, show your art and have fun. 

Day 7: Imani (Faith): We all need this element. Take a time to reflect on how you can embrace this moving forward.

For a more in-depth look at the traditional celebration and history of Kwanza check out this article from National Geographic

Happy Holidays!

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