The Principle of Kwanzaa

Leya Brittain, Editor

Kwanzaa is the newest of the December holidays. Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa is 1966 as a way to bring the African-American community together with a focus on unity and family. He combined several different harvest festivals like Ashanti and Zulu to form the basics of Kwanzaa and named it after the Swahili translation of  “First fruits”.

Like Hanukkah, there is a candle lighting ceremony for each of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The principles, called Nguzo Saba, are the ethics of the African culture that contribute to  the building and community of African Americans.

The first candle is lit for the principle of Umoja or unity, and it is to discuss the importance of unity between family, friends, the community, the nation and their race. It is an extremely significant principle to the people who celebrate Kwanzaa.

The second candle is lit for the Kujichagulia or principle of self-determination. This discussion usually revolves around people defining and speaking for themselves.

The third candle is lit for Ujima or collective work and responsibility. The discussion centers around the philosophy to make their “brother’s and sister’s” problems their own problems and help solve them together.

The fourth candle lit is Ujamma or Cooperative economics. This discussion focuses on business ownership and profiting from them together.   

The fifth candle is lit for the principle of Nia or  purpose. This candle examines the importance of tradition and collectively work to make the community better.

The sixth candle lit is Kuumba or  the principle of creativity. It emphasizes the importance to leave the community better and more beautiful than the way it was before.

On the last night of Kwanzaa they light the candle of Imani or faith. The focus of this night is for people to believe with all of their heart the righteousness and victory of their struggle.

Each of these principles boil down to the importance of community and family. They teach young children to believe in each other and to help one another if they are ever in need. This holiday was created on the foundation of family and the effort to make a better community.

You can find the History of Christmas and New Years in The Sandstorm magazine.