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"Kwanzaa and the Well-Being of the World: Living and Uplifting the Seven Principles"

Kwanzaa 2020 - Annual Kwanzaa Theme"Kwanzaa and the Well-Being of the World: Living and Uplifting the Seven Principles"

The origins of Kwanzaa on the African continent are in the agricultural celebrations called the first-fruits" celebrations and to a lesser degree the full or general harvest celebrations. It is from these first-fruits celebrations that Kwanzaa gets its name which comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya lewanza. Here matunda means "fruits" and ya kwanza means "first." (The extra "a" at the end of Kwanzaa has become convention as a result of a particular history.) The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu) or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa.

Of course all of these societies have their own names for the first-fruits celebrations. Among the ancient Egyptians, the festival was called "Pert-en-Mm" (The Coming Forth of Mm); among the Zulu, Umkhosi; among the Swazi, Incwala; among the Matabele, Inxwala; among the Thonga, Luma; among the Lovedu, Thegula; among the Ashanti, various names, i.e., Afahye or Odwira; and among the Yoruba, various names also depending on the region, i.e., Eje, Oro Olofin or Odun Ijesu. The Ashanti and Yoruba festivals are usually referred to as the New Yam Festival, i.e., the time of harvesting the first yams.

The choice of African first-fruits celebrations as the focal point and foundation of a new African American holiday was based on several considerations. First, these celebrations were prevalent throughout Africa and thus had the Pan-African character necessary to be defined as African in general as distinct from simply ethnically specific. This was important to Us given its policy of making, whenever possible, a creative and useful synthesis from various African cultural sources rather than choosing only one culture for emulation. Secondly, the core common aspects of these festivals which were discussed above, i.e., ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration were seen as very relevant to building family, community and culture. This is especially true in terms of their stress on bonding, reaffirmation, restoration, remembrance, spirituality and recommitment to ever higher levels of human life as well as celebration of the Good in general...

Continued on page 18 - "Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture - by Maulana Karenga / pp 15-16 / Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press (2008)

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