Preparing for Kwanzaa 2011: Understanding the Conceptual Foundation of the Holiday
Understanding the conceptual basis of Kwanzaa is essential to gaining the greatest benefits from the Kwanzaa celebration. The historical and conceptual roots of Kwanzaa are grounded in the agricultural celebration, The Festival of the New Year, in traditional African societies. The purpose of these was celebrations to: give thanks for the well-being and prosperity of the family and community, celebrate the common good, pay homage to the ancestors (parents, grandparents, and significant others), and commit to the life-affirming values which held the community together and made possible the “Good Life”.
Thus, rationally adapted to respond to the modern day needs of families and communities, giving thanks is now translated into the practice of showing gratitude to parents, family and extended families and community members, and significant others for their contribution to well-being of families and the larger community. For those of a particular faith, homage to their spiritual guide or god may be included as a show of gratitude.
Celebration of the common good, defined as promoting dignity and decency, respect for life, prosperity and joy, and practices which reduce human suffering, is highlighted and reinforced. There is recognition here that a healthy family and community are the best circumstance and condition for personal and collective development and prosperity.
Next, paying homage to ancestors makes us mindful and respectful of the contributions of those who have gone before us, beginning first with our parents, grandparents and other family members and significant others, and extending to historical heroes and heroines. The practice of showing appreciation for our family members is another way of reinforcing the bonds and importance of family.
And finally, commitment to life-affirming values of the community is honored through the practice of the 7 Principles. These principles are the value system most capable of producing the nurturing social conditions for personal development and flourishing, healthy families, and supportive neighborhoods.