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The meaning behind Kwanzaa

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Posted at 7:23 AM, Dec 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-12 18:07:46-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The 7-day celebration of Kwanzaa runs from December 26 through January 1.

It combines African tradition with seven principles of self-determination and the power of the individual that can be celebrate by all.

This year, the Lyric Theatre is hosting a community celebration of Kwanzaa. It is free and open to all, but you must register online to buy a ticket to attend. More information is available here.

Kwanzaa started with an idea. According to Dr. Maulana Karenga, the word Kwanzaa means "first fruits."

The celebration of Kwanzaa came about in the U.S. as a way for African Americans to reach back to African roots and traditions.

From there, seven principles were developed, bringing in Swahili words to connect new traditions with the old.

The first principle of Kwanzaa—represented by the lighting of the only black candle— means Umoja or unity. It is about community, nation, and family.

The second principle of Kwanzaa—represented by the lighting of the first red candle—is Kujichaulia or self determination. It's about the ability to define ourselves.

The third principle of Kwanzaa—represented by the lighting of a first green candle—is Ujima, which means the collective work and community.

The fourth principle of Kwanzaa—represented by the lighting of the next red candle—means Ujamaa or cooperative economics. This principle focuses on the economics of Kwanzaa and how the community invests in itself.

The fifth principle of Kwanzaa—represented by the lighting of the next green candle—Nia or purpose is about greatness, purpose, and peacefulness.

The sixth principle of Kwanzaa—represented by the lighting of the last red candle—is Kuumba or creativity.

The seventh and final principle of Kwanzaa—represented by the lighting of the last green candle—means Imani or faith.

If there was any principle that could be attributed to some type of religious faith it would be Imani because it is about faith, but not faith in a deity, but beliefs in one's heart.

These principles should not only be reserved for the last days of the calendar year but celebrated all year and often, according to Whit Whitaker, executive director of the Lyric.

He says while the celebration was born out of the African American experience, everyone can benefit.

"Kwanzaa is culturally based, and yes, even though it centers us and pulls from an African tradition, the culture and principles are not specific to skin color and race."

But he says if more people don't start including this celebration in their holiday traditions then there is a danger it will disappear.

"These are traditions that the family sits down, talks about, immerses themselves in, so the children understand. And, if we lose these ancestral traditions, this historic tradition, it is going to be very hard to recapture that," says Whitaker.

Making it even more important that we all take time to appreciate the first fruits of life.