A Celebration of Community

December Traditions & Celebration Series

Anna Sturgeon, Staff writer

Towards the end of the year, Holidays that aren’t Christmas often go overlooked. One such holiday is Kwanzaa, an African holiday coming from the phrase ‘Matunda ya Kwanzaa’ meaning ‘first fruit’ in Swahili. Kwanzas is often celebrated with songs, African music, dances, storytelling, poetry reading, and large traditional meals. On each of the seven days of Kwanzaa, one of seven principles, or ‘Nguzo Saba’ in Swahili, is discussed. Using these principles helps to build the values of African culture, and reinforce a sense of community.

Seven Principles:

  1. Unity/Umoja (oo-MO-Jah): to strive for and maintain unity in families, community, nation, and race.
  2. Self-determination/Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah): to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  3. Collective Work and Responsibility/Ujima (oo–GEE–mah): to build and maintain our community, and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems, and to solve them together.
  4. Cooperative Economics/Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah):  to build our sand maintain our stores, shops, and other businesses, and to profit from them together.
  5. Purpose/Nia (nee–YAH): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditions and greatness.
  6. Creativity/Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah): to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave our community more beautiful than the way we received it.
  7. Faith/Imani (ee–MAH–nee): to believe with all our hearts in our people, parents, teachers, leaders, righteousness, and the victory over our struggle.

For a holiday that is less than 50 years old, many people celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa.  Gifts given on the last day of Kwanzaa are encouraged to be made by hand rather than bought at a store.  This aspect helps to avoid over-commercialization.  Occasionally, culturally themed books, music, and art accessories are bought preferably from African-American-owned businesses.  Kwanzaooceeya may be from Africa, but it is for anyone and everyone.