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Did you know? Kwanzaa

To help increase awareness of religious diversity, my department's Wellness and Inclusion Team is doing a "Did you know?" series. This series features information on various religious and secular celebrations throughout the year.

Kwanzaa (December 26, 2019, to January 1, 2020)

Did you know?

Some of our colleagues will be celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season.

·         Kwanzaa (derived from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning "first fruits") is a non-religious holiday observed from December 26 to January 1.

·         Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga to bring African-Americans together following the Watts riots in Los Angeles. It was founded on seven principles ("Nguzo Saba") identified in African harvest celebrations to build and reinforce African community:

o    unity (umoja)

o    self-determination (kujichagulia)

o    collective work and responsibility (ujima)

o    cooperative economics (ujamaa)

o    purpose (nia)

o    creativity (kuumba)

o    faith (imani)

·         Kwanzaa is represented by seven symbols. The Kinara, a seven-branched candleholder, symbolizes the seven principles, and it features the Mishumaa Saba (seven candles) which are red, green and black—colours symbolic of pan-Africanism. Other symbols include crops (Mazao), the place mat (Mkeka), an ear of corn (Vibunzi), the unity cup (Kikombe Cha Umoja) and gifts (Zawadi).

·         On each day of Kwanzaa, family and friends gather together to light one of the candles and discuss the specific principle for that day. On the second-last day of Kwanzaa, families eat a large traditional meal (the Karamu) together.

·         While primarily celebrated by African-Americans in the United States, people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are welcome to celebrate Kwanzaa. Celebrations often include singing and dancing, African drumming, storytelling and poetry reading.

To all those who celebrate, we wish you a happy Kwanzaa!



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