As the last hectic weeks of December wind down and Christmas and Hanukkah events come to a close, many Peninsula and Bay Area residents look forward to one final celebration to close out the year - Kwanzaa.
An African American and Pan-African holiday with no religious affiliation, Kwanzaa instead recognizes the universal values of family, community and culture. It is celebrated each year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Kwanzaa and the Seven Principles: Sharing and Sustaining the World.”
For each of the seven days of Kwanzaa a different principle of life is celebrated, and is called Nguzo Saba. The seven principles focus on the elements of African culture which contribute to building and maintaining community values among African Americans. They include:
- Umoja (Unity)
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
- Ujamma (Cooperative Economics)
- Nia (Purpose)
- Kuumba (Creativity)
- Imani (Faith)
Each of the seven symbols is represented by colored candles on a holder called a kinara which often is used as a centerpiece during daily celebrations. On the final night of Kwanzaa, the event is closed with an African feast, called a Karamu.
The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanzaa” which translates to “first fruits” in Swahili, which is the most widely spoken African language.
While the traditions and principles of Kwanzaa aren’t new, the formal, week-long event started in 1966. It was developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies at California State University-Long Beach. Karenga’s idea was to promote and preserve African culture throughout the world.
Kwanzaa celebrations started slowly in the United States, but over the years expanded throughout the U.S. and eventually to Canada, the Caribbean, England and Africa. Today, it’s estimated more than 20 million people celebrate the event.
While there are no formal, city-wide Kwanzaa celebrations on tap in Milpitas, other nearby communities, including East Palo Alto, have celebrations planned.
Today, the second day of Kwanzaa, a Kujichagulia celebration is set for 7 p.m. at the Tulip Jones Women’s Club at 1310 Bay Road, East Palo Alto. For details, call 650-325-5532.
Other Bay Area celebrations are planned this week in Sunnyvale, San Francisco, Oakland, and Hayward.
The Official Kwanzaa Website offers more details about the celebration, and its history and symbols.