Feeling Kwanzaa 2021
Kwanzaa 2021 will be uniquely celebrated like all large gatherings during a time of COVID-19. While we are experiencing victories in vaccinations and slowing the disease progression, with the new Omicron variant and the coming of winter, everyone needs to be more careful of enclosed, public spaces and spreading the disease. That means, especially for elders and those with health concerns, Kwanzaa should be celebrated by close family members in safe spaces inside homes and with fully vaccinated people.
Since Kwanzaa is designed to honor family in a daily ceremony that focuses on all the good that happened in the previous year, we pause on December 26 to January 1, to appreciate each other, our kin, friends, and African Americans throughout the world. Welcome to another year of Kwanzaa. We are blessed to be alive to remember those gone on before us, and to be in the loving presence of family and friends.
Kwanzaa begins December 26, for seven days and ends on January 1. In this celebration, the Swahili language is used to highlight our connections to Africa. Kwanzaa means “first fruits” in Swahili and it is based on ancient African harvests celebrations. What is especially beautiful and meaningful about Kwanzaa is the seven principles with seven symbols that are highlighted for seven days from the day after Christmas through New Year’s Day.
The number seven is repeated through the number of days, symbols and principles. Kwanzaa is not designed to replace the Christmas celebration. It is a cultural celebration that pays tribute to African people throughout the world, but especially those in America and our original aesthetics. Kwanzaa is based on African traditions, rituals and values because it was inspired by Californian, Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, when he was formally studying Africa and the Diaspora. He wanted Kwanzaa to reinforce the seven basic values he commonly found across most African cultures; unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
The seven symbols are seven candles, a candle holder, a woven mat, ears of corn, a unity cup, fruit/vegetables and handmade gifts that are functional like books, quilts, and tools. All of the items are already present in most homes. What makes the celebration important is your family’s interpretation of the seven principles, the personal meaning of the seven symbols and how each person shares their unique family story using the symbols to connect to the principals. This translates Kwanzaa from a family celebration, to a community celebration, to a national celebration, to a global celebration that connects African Americans to Black people around the world.
After a health pandemic and a racial pandemic that has taken a toll on Black people everywhere, how peaceful and life-giving to quiet ourselves inside the safety and comfort of our homes, reflect on our blessings and to share our appreciation with those closest to us. Kwanzaa 2021 is different and when we are able to safely gather in community celebrations again, our celebration will expand. Until then, we are grateful for the resilience that is an important part of our cultural identity and that keeps us celebrating Kwanzaa in many different ways.