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With the quick transition of decorations from happy, top-hatted turkeys and smiling jack-o'-lanterns to jingle bells and evergreens, it seems like Christmas is approaching a little sooner every year. Mid-October is when the yuletide craze really kicks in, and after Halloween, the calendar is covered in a riot of red and green ribbons that lasts until the New Year.

Though Christmas dominates the solstice season, it's important to remember there are other celebrations going on throughout this time of joy and cheer. There are an astounding number of holidays that have religious and cultural importance for families all across the world from November to January.

For numerous individuals, both domestically and internationally, the holiday season is filled with excitement and festivities such as Hanukkah, Yule, Diwali, Chinese New Year, St. Lucia Day and many more.

While many of these celebrations, like Christmas, have foreign roots, Kwanzaa is a winter festival that was invented specifically in the United States.

An annual celebration of Pan-African and African-American culture is Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by professor Dr. Maulana Karenga as a way to celebrate African American heritage and foster a sense of cultural identity within the black community.

Prominent Black Power activist Karenga wanted to give Black Americans a holiday based on the festival customs of West and Southeast Africa as a way to reclaim a heritage and traditions lost during American slavery in response to the horrifying violence of the Watts Riots in 1965 in Los Angeles, California. Kwanzaa, which is seven letters long and is a contraction of the Swahili word matunda ya kwanza, signifies "first fruits." Every year, from December 26 to January 1, people celebrate this nonreligious festival across seven days.

Though it is typically observed in conjunction with Christmas, Kwanzaa is only a cultural custom that does not aim to take the place of the holiday.

Traditionally, families use the holiday's emblems to decorate their houses during Kwanzaa. The Kwanzaa ritual can vary greatly from house to family and is based on a multitude of customs. Nonetheless, it is recognized as a reaffirmation of adherence to the "Nguzo Saba," or the "seven principles" that form the foundation of the festival, as well as a celebration of family, life, culture, and community.

The kinara is arguably the most well-known emblem of Kwanzaa. The Mishumaa Saba, or seven candles in the colors of the Pan-African flag—red, black, and green—is held aloft by this seven-branched candelabra. Every day, one candle in the kinara is lit to symbolize one of the seven Kwanzaa values. The unity candle, which is the black central candle of the kinara, is lit first, then lighting moves from left to right to promote careful contemplation and conversation about each concept throughout the celebration.

Day 1: Umoja, Unity. African American families join on the first day of Kwanzaa to exchange family lore and customs with one another and the community.

Day 2: Kujichagulia, Self-determination. This idea is about making realistic objectives for oneself and completing them shortly after the start of the new year. Kujichagulia is crucial for determining one's identity and position in society and the wider world.

Day 3: Ujima, Group Work, and Accountability. On the third day of Kwanzaa, the family or community joins together to address a neighbor's issue or obligation in an effort to strengthen their bond.

Day 4: Ujamaa, Cooperative Economics. This idea promotes supporting local companies and retailers in your town and keeping money and goods there.

Day 5: Nia, Purpose. A life of purpose can be found and lived by discovering one's passion or path and sharing it with others through teaching or mentoring.

Day 6: Kuumba is Creative. Families can opt to observe this principle through crafts, singing, dancing, or admiring African art.

Day 7: Imani, Faith. This idea illustrates the strength of tradition-based belief. Belief can be defined as confidence in oneself, one's family, and other people, or it might be connected to religious rituals.

Apart from the kinara, some of the other significant emblems of the occasion are:

Mkeke: the mat that the symbols are positioned on.

Crops are known as "fruits of collective labor," or makao.

Muhindi, or corn, represents youth and the next generation.

The unity cup, or kikombe cha Umoja, is typically handed from person to person during a
feast or gathering.

Zawadi, or "the gifts," stand for the diligence of parents and the well-behaved children they raise.
Families will celebrate by dining, dancing, drumming, and spending quality time together over the seven days of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa places a lot of emphasis on children because they are the future. During the season, elders in the home and community are also given a place of honor as a sign of respect for the ones who came before them.

Despite its separatist origins, Kwanzaa has evolved to stand for the value of culture and identity in the black community. In tandem with those objectives is the community's wish to comprehend black people's ancestry, traditions and history outside of the convoluted context of slavery.

People of different colors and ethnicities who want to reflect on their principles before the new year have come to embrace Kwanzaa, even though during its peak of popularity in the 1970s it was considered a closed practice.

Kwanzaa, despite being less common than it formerly was, is a great illustration of the potency of tradition's necessity. Our most treasured memories guiding customs offer a strong base upon which to develop, expand, and communicate.

"It is a time when we gather in the spirit of family and community to celebrate life, love, unity and hope," remarked the late poet and well-known Kwanzaa enthusiast Maya Angelou.

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