Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

January 1, 2011

Kwanzaa celebrates season and family

Kwanzaa honors season, family

Every culture has celebrations that are distinct and symbolize their histories.

"Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration of family, community and culture," said Chike Akua, speaking in Ohio earlier this month. "It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a result of research on harvest celebrations throughout Africa. He brought these harvest celebrations together and called it Kwanzaa."

Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration held from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Each family celebrates the holiday with its own traditions.

"You bring the family together, set the table up with the candle and kinara," said Winsome Chunnu, assistant director of a multicultural center in Ohio. "The kinara represents the seven principles. You have the gifts, the corn, the cup, the crop — each symbolizes something different, and you read what they symbolize as a reinforcement of what these things mean and why they are symbolic."

Sometimes Kwanzaa is called the African American version of Christmas, which is a general misconception, Chunnu said.

"Kwanzaa came out because that's when people harvested crops in Africa," he said. "The idea is to bring community together to celebrate harvest of crops and to give thanks."

It also is important to note that Kwanzaa is something that transcends racial lines.

"The principles of Kwanzaa transcend race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, to me any group, religion, any organizations, any group can identify with these principles," Chunnu said.

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