Kwanzaa was started by Activist, Scholar, & Professor Dr. Maulana Karenga. First celebrated in 1966.
The origins of Kwanzaa on the African continent are rooted in the agricultural celebrations held across the continent called "The First Fruits" celebrations. It is from these first-fruits celebrations that Kwanzaa gets its name.
The first-fruit celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as Ancient Egypt and Nubia extending into modern times. The First fruits celebrations were also seen in other African civilizations such as:
the Ashanti land, Yoruba land, Swazi land, The Zulu empire, and smaller societal groups like: the Matabele, Thonga, & Lovedu of Southeastern Africa.
The first-fruits celebration went by many names throughout the land. The Ancient Egyptians festival was called "Pert-en-Mm" - The Coming Forth of Mn); The Zulu - "Umkhosi", Swazi - "Incwala", Matabele - "Inxwala" among Southeaster Africa "Afahye" or "Odwira", and among the Yoruba people many names "Eje" , "Oro" , "Olofin" or "Odun Ijesu".
Because the Festival of first-fruits was used throughout Africa across various kingdoms, empires, & nations it had the Pan-African characteristics & qualities to build the foundation an African-American Holiday upon.
KWANZAA - Symbols
Kwanzaa has seven major symbols but there are many more. Each symbol represents values and concepts that directly reflect the African culture related to the celebration of the first fruits, community building and self-reliance.
#1 Mkeka (The Mat)
This is symbolic of our tradition and history. The foundation upon which we build. All symbolic items are placed on top of and/or around the Mkeka
#2 Mazao (The Crops)
These are symbolic of the African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive collective labor with one another.
#3 Muhindi (The Corn)
This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody
Symbolic of the Nguzo Saba - The seven principles, the matrix and the minimum sets of values we are urged to live by to reconstruct our lives according to our own needs. Keeping our people strong
#6 The Bendera (The Flag)
The Colors of the Bendera (Red, Black & Green) are symbolic of us as black people. Red - For the struggle, Black - For the people, & Green - for the future that comes from our struggle/land.
The Bendera is based on the national flag given to us by the Hon. Marcus Garvey.
#7 The Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles)
It is these 7 principles which give Kwanzaa its core and seven day cultural focus.
The Day of Meditation (Siku Ya Taamuli)
The Last day of Kwanzaa is the first day of the new year - January 1st. Following in the tradition, it is for us a time to ask and answer soberly and humbly the three Kwaida Questions:
1) Who am I? 2) Am I who I say I am? 3)Am I all I ought to be ?
It is a time to recommit ourselves to our highest ideals. In the Akan first fruit celebration they simply engaged in a time of quiet reflection. The idea of this day is to maintain a quiet, humble and calm attitude with regard to oneself.
KWANZAA - Activities for the Children
1) Oral Art of Storytelling 2) African / African American Drum & Dance 3) Kwanzaa Arts, Crafts, & Decorations 4) African American Book Reading