What is Kwanzaa and How is it Celebrated?

In light of Black voices being heard and celebrated across the United States, we are seeing more recognition of holidays specific to Black American culture. Las Vegas Christmas Light Installation is happy to provide holiday lighting for all families, whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, or any holiday where LIGHTS are involved, because that's kind of our thing!

One thing that makes Kwanzaa different from all the other holidays is that it is not just specific to the Black ethnicity, but it is also specific to the United States of America. It started in 1966 following the Watts Riots, as a means for the African American community to have a non-, or less assimilated alternative to Christmas. The holiday's founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga in an effort to bring more unity among the Diaspora adopted concepts from African harvest celebrations which carried themes and customs to nourish the culture, the Creator, and the Creation (earth.)

So whether you grew up celebrating Kwanzaa, or are starting a new family tradition this year based on the holiday, Las Vegas Christmas Light Installation is here for your decoration needs. Here's a brief overview of some of the staples of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa's roots come from ancient African "First Fruits" celebration. These harvest festivals have been found to be celebrated by multiple African civilizations across the continent. The holiday's name comes from the Swahili phrase for first fruit: matunda ya kwanza. The concept of the harvest is an important theme in many African traditions along with the rest of the world. During Kwanzaa it is a chance for African Americans to spend this sacred time with family and reconnect with their cultural roots. When it comes to exactly how the holiday is celebrated, it varies widely from home to home but there are a few key traditions that are usually observed in general.

As with all holidays, a family gathering is in order. It is common for extended family to all gather at one home so that everyone can be together. Ethnic foods are enjoyed; music, and storytelling are all things you will see taking place during Kwanzaa. All of these activities circle around lighting the Kinara. This is the decorative candelabra that holds the red, green, and single black candle. Every night everyone gathers around and one of the candles is lit. There are seven candles to represent the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, and thus, Seven Days of Kwanzaa.

These seven crucial principals are unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. Each candle represents one of these principles and each is discussed respectively on the light of its lighting. Through these lessons observers take time to reflect on the past, and give honor to their ancestors' journeys, as well as assessing the present, and reinvigorating the values held true by the culture. Many families also display ears of corn or vibunzi, to symbolize fertility and the future.

Gift-giving is also a part of Kwanzaa celebrations, celebrated on the seventh day. Although gifts are often exchanged by all, this may be the children's favorite part. It's safe to say that Kwanzaa shares many similarities with Winter Holidays celebrated in the United States such as Christmas, Chanukah, or Three Kings Day. However, it's important for Kwanzaa to be recognized for what it is because its identity, and the cultural identity of those who celebrate matters.

So if you are looking to decorate this Winter Holiday Season, and you'd like something specifically for Kwanzaa, give Las Vegas Christmas Light Installation a call. We'd be happy to make your holiday shine.

Resources: Kwanzaa

Photo cred-Askar Abayev from Pexels

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