Pongal Festival » Pongal in Africa & America

Africa America - Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits of the harvest" in the African language Kiswahili, is a popular harvest festival and has gained tremendous acceptance among the African American people. Since its founding in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa has come to be observed by more than18 million people world wide. This festival runs from December 26 to January 1 and over this seven days, people of African descent come together to celebrate family, community, culture and the bonds that tie them together as a people. They also remember their heritage, give thanks for the good things they have and rejoice in the goodness of life.

Seven is an important theme of Kwanzaa. The holiday lasts for seven days -- one day for each of its seven guiding principals. There are seven basic symbols used in the Kwanzaa ceremony -- one of which consists of seven candles -- and each symbol ties into one or more of the seven guiding principles. The 7 principles, in Swahili, are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).

Africa America - KwanzaaGifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Egypt, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green as noted above and can be utilized in decorations for Kwanzaa. Also decorations should include traditional African items, i.e., African baskets, cloth patterns, art objects, harvest symbols, etc.


There is a traditionally established way of celebrating Kwanzaa. First, one should come to the celebration with a profound respect for its values, symbols and practices and do nothing to violate its integrity, beauty and expansive meaning. Secondly, one should not mix the Kwanzaa holiday or its symbols, values and practice with any other culture. Thirdly, one must choose the best and most beautiful items to celebrate Kwanzaa. This means taking time to plan and select the most beautiful objects of art, colorful African cloth, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. so that every object used represents African culture and the commitment to the holiday in the best of ways.

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