Did you know that boxing day is also the start of Kwanza? Established in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University, Kwanza is a relatively recent tradition. It celebrates both the African heritage and the current place of African-Americans around the world and runs from December 26th to January 1st. Kwanza is a Swahili word meaning “first fruits” or “fruits of the harvest”.
The festival involves the ritual lighting of seven candles (the Mishumaa Saba) representing the seven principles of Kwanza which are collectively called Nguzo Saba. These principles are Unity (Umoja), Self-determination (Kujichagulia), Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Pupose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba), and Faith (Imani). (Sound good to me!) The candles are in three colours: black, representing the skin of the African people; red symbolising the blood they've shed, and green representing hope for the future and remembrance of the motherland. Three green candles are placed on the left of a special candleholder (a Kinara), three red ones on the right and a black candle in the centre. Each day of the celebration one of the candles is lit. Houses are decorated with colourful traditional cloths and other decorations and there is drumming, music and dance, as well as reflection on the seven principles. And finally, not to be missed, feasting, including lots of fresh fruit!