Cultural centers

How to celebrate Kwanzaa, a serene cultural festival

Kwanzaa is a cultural festival that celebrates the achievements of Africans and African Americans. Learn how to celebrate Kwanzaa. Photo: Getty Images.

Do you crave a calm, non-commercial vacation that helps you reflect on past achievements and prepare for a better future?

Then Kwanzaa is a perfect celebration to add to your December traditions.

What is Kwanzaa and how do you celebrate it?

Kwanzaa is the fastest growing holiday in the world. It is a non-religious celebration created by African Americans 55 years ago to celebrate the achievements of black people throughout history and to honor black leaders here in the United States and around the world. The holidays last from December 26 to January 1 of each year and are not reserved for Africans and African Americans. People of all races and ethnicities are welcome to celebrate Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa, which is derived from the Swahili expression matunda ya kwanza, which means first fruits, is based on the African harvest festivals. And, the good news is that Kwanzaa, by design, is a low stress affair with a focus on friends, family, and community. Kwanzaa is explicitly not about buying gifts or other things. You can participate in Kwanzaa celebrations at designated Kwanzaa events. Or, you can light candles at home, eat a good meal, and talk with loved ones about the year that has passed and the year to come, quietly reflecting on triumphs and disappointments while setting goals for the past. ‘to come up.

Revered poet Maya Angelou recounted a foundational documentary on Kwanzaa titled “The black candle” and described the holidays this way: “Kwanzaa is a time when we honor our family, our community and our heritage. We especially give thanks for the harvest of the good in our lives. We remember our glorious past and celebrate the future.

So what are people doing for Kwanzaa and how can everyone celebrate Kwanzaa? We spoke with leaders from Kwanzaa in Colorado to answer your questions and highlight how everyone can participate in Kwanzaa celebrations.

How to celebrate Kwanzaa.  African drummers perform at a Kwanzaa celebration.
African drummers perform at a Kwanzaa celebration. Photo courtesy of the Kuumba Cultural Collective of Southern Colorado.

Who created Kwanzaa?

Maulana Karenga, a black professor and chair of the African-American studies department at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa. He wanted to create a positive vacation for black people after Watts’ devastating uprising in 1965 in California.

I have heard that the number seven is important in Kwanzaa celebrations. Why is that?

Kwanzaa focuses on a Swahili phrase, Nguzo Saba, which means “seven principles”.

What are the seven principles?

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa (in the order of days you celebrate them) are: Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economy, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. There are also seven symbols: fruits / nuts / vegetables, placemats, corn on the cob, candles, candle holders, communal cups and gifts. These seven symbols are laid out on a table at the beginning of Kwanzaa. Each day, families or communities come together to discuss the principles, read poems, or attend musical or dance performances.

Colorful candles and colors in general are an important part of Kwanzaa celebrations. What do the colors symbolize?

How to celebrate Kwanzaa.  A young man lights a candle during a Kwanzaa celebration.  Photo courtesy of the Kuumba Cultural Collective of Southern Colorado.
A young man lights a candle during a Kwanzaa celebration. Photo courtesy of the Kuumba Cultural Collective of Southern Colorado.

Red, black and green are important symbols for Kwanzaa. Red symbolizes the struggles that Africans and African Americans have faced. Black represents land and black people. And green symbolizes hope and the future. Kwanzaa candles are arranged in a holder, with a black candle in the center and red and green candles on the sides. People celebrate Kwanzaa by lighting a candle every day.

How do people greet each other during Kwanzaa?

Each day of Kwanzaa, participants greet each other with the phrase “havari gani”, a Swahili phrase that roughly translates to “What’s up?” or “What’s the news?” Celebrants respond with the Kwanzaa principle of this day.

Are there any gifts for Kwanzaa?

No. Gifts are not necessary. But, if parents give children something, they focus on small educational gifts, like books.

Is Kwanzaa a religious holiday?

No. Kwanzaa is a cultural festival based on the harvest festivals in Africa.

Can people who celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas also celebrate Kwanzaa?

Yes. Kwanzaa is open to all, religious or not. Kwanzaa is like Day of the Dead, Cinco de Mayo, or July 4th, a time when everyone in a community can come together. It is a celebration of African history and the pride of the black community.

How can I celebrate Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa celebration in Denver, Colorado. Theme 2021: “The best is yet to come. “


December 22, noon. Volunteers set up the Kinara, or 12-foot by 12-foot decorative candleholder, at Denver Public Library Blair Caldwell African American Research Library. 2401 Welton Street, Denver, Colorado.

December 26, 6 p.m. Kwanzaa parade of Blair Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton Street to Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater, 119, avenue du Parc West. Performance of the Platinum Divas, coached by Ms. Chinique.

December 26, 6:30 p.m. First night celebration at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. Induction of four new candidates to the Circle of Wisdom. Hosted by Brother Jeff Fard and the Denver Kwanzaa Committee. Kwanzaa 101. Local event. Children also do a Kwanzaa 101 presentation.

December 30 at 10 a.m. Kwanzaa celebration and lunch for seniors. Center for the elderly of Sion, 5151 E. 33rd Ave. in Denver.

December 31st 5pm The big dance, a masked ball. Wear a mask. Masks and beads will be available at the entrance for a $ 5 donation. Platinum Divas to play. Line dancing. Prize for the best outfit. Dinner will be served. Okra and rice.

Theodora Jackson is the Executive Director of the Denver Kwanzaa Committee.

She loves Kwanzaa and has supported the Denver celebration for many years.

“In the beginning, after the Watts riots, Kwanzaa brought the community together and gave people a way to celebrate our culture,” Jackson said.

She said everyone is welcome.

“Anyone who wants to celebrate with us is welcome,” Jackson said.

This year’s celebration will be particularly powerful as the community was unable to celebrate Kwanzaa in person last year due to the pandemic. And, COVID-19 has hit members of the African American community particularly hard.

Unity is the principle of the first night.

“We will celebrate unity,” Jackson said. “It’s really important for us to get back together and inspire people again. “

While people can celebrate with community members throughout the sixth day, the seventh, people have private dinners.

“This is when we get together with friends or family and have a good dinner. We sit down and talk to children, husbands, wives, partners, sisters and brothers. We’re talking about what we’re going to do to make the next year even better, something as easy as helping more around the house. It’s a special dinner and a special occasion. All of the giveaways are education-based, ”Jackson said.

Join the annual Colorado Springs Citywide Kwanzaa Celebration, December 26-31, free and open to the public.

The Colorado Springs Celebration is a 6 day community celebration. On the last evening of January 1, people celebrate at their homes.

How to celebrate Kwanzaa.  A young girl is dressed in a traditional African costume.  Photo courtesy of the Kuumba Cultural Collective of Southern Colorado.
A young girl is dressed in a traditional African costume for a celebration. Photo courtesy of the Kuumba Cultural Collective of Southern Colorado.

Kwanzaa festivities take place at Wellness studio in balance, 2820 E. Pikes Peak Ave., Colorado Springs, Colorado, nightly Dec. 26-31 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

the Southern Colorado Kuumba Cultural Collective (formerly known as Colorado Springs Citywide Kwanzaa Celebration) sponsors the event. The group has been celebrating Kwanzaa in Colorado Springs since 1989. The Kuumba cultural collective also sponsors a pre-Kwanzaa African market in November each year and hosts Black History lectures, African percussion and dance festivals, films about Black history and community discussions and exhibitions of work by African American artists and writers.

Dr. Anthony P. Young, retired clinical and forensic psychologist, is one of the founders of the Colorado Springs Kwanzaa Events.

Young said there was a lot of confusion about Kwanzaa. He wants people to know that this is an inclusive and welcoming event for black people and others too.

“We celebrate who and what we have been throughout history, not just in the United States. People of African descent have played an important role all over the planet from time immemorial,” Young said.

“We come together for Kwanzaa with our families and our community to celebrate our legacy,” he said.

Young loves the simplicity of Kwanzaa and starts the New Year with joy and determination.

“The important thing is our relationship with each other. Kwanzaa, at its core, is a celebration of family, culture and community, ”Young said. “We reflect on the previous year and identify ways to make the coming year more beneficial to the community collectively. “

Learn more about the Kuumba Cultural Collective of Southern Colorado at their website and Facebook page.

Story time at Ragged blanket kids at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street, Suite 144, Aurora, Sunday, December 26 at 5 p.m.

Habari Gani! It’s a magical time of year, and whether you’re already celebrating Kwanzaa or wanting to start your own traditions, join us at Tattered Cover Kids on Sunday, December 26 at 5 p.m. for story time with a selection of stories. ‘Kwanzaa stories and books. Celebrate and learn about the rich traditions and history of Kwanzaa, the annual celebration of African American culture and African heritage.

“Kwanzaa is a special time to remember ancestors, bridge builders and rulers. – Dorothy Winbush Riley

Learn more about Kwanzaa by watching The black candle, Which one is available to stream online.