Kwanzaa The First Fruits Celebration: Umoja Day
This is the first day of the Kwanzaa, Umoja Day. Today, the family and/or friends come together to celebrate family, the common good, and the love, caring, and sharing that is the foundation of our existence and the social glue which binds us as family.
The Ingathering Activity
The ingathering activity has historical significance. It is symbolic of ingathering which occurred during the “First Fruits” celebrations in ancient African civilizations. It was a time for the families of these communities to come together to reinforce the bonds of family and community, a time to give thanks for the harvest, and a time to celebrate the joy of living, underscored by 7 Principles which anchored the community. Today, we too come gather in the spirit and practice of our ancient ancestors in celebrating family and life and values- 7 Principles- which is the pathway to the Good Life. At the ingathering, family tell stories about family history and events (reunion), bring forth the memory of loved ones, and express their love and appreciation for each other.
Remembrance and Libation Statement
The Kwanzaa activity of pouring of libation is a spiritual and venerable act which has its roots in traditional African societies. It was done then and is done now to honor those who have gone before us. Their lives and contributions made it possible for us to live with more dignity, freedom, possibilities, and opportunities. We call forth the name of our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and cousins who have transition
We call upon our ancestors far and near, Fathers of our fathers, mothers of our mothers, to bear witness to what we are doing to honor your example, which continues to inspire us to make progress, and achieve morally and socially at our highest potential. We pour this libation to bring into our midst your venerable spirit of Loving, Caring, and Sharing, and your unyielding commitment to live ethical and productive lives. It is in honor of you that we pour libation. We call forth the name of our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and cousins who have transition
Explanation of the Kwanzaa Symbols
During this first day and celebration, the family reviews and discusses the Kwanzaa symbols. This is value activity in that it provides a learning opportunity for everyone, especially children and youth. The meaning of the 7 Kwanzaa symbols are instructive and inform family and community practice.
Mkeka (The Mat) This symbol represents our history and culture both on the continent of African and here in America. We base our practice on our culture here and in selected instances, on the continent. Therefore, all the Kwanzaa symbols on the Mat.
Mazao (The Crops) This symbol represents work and achievements of the family, community, and African American people. The fruit represents the school grades, school achievements, workplace and social achievements by parents and children.
Kinara (The Candleholder) This symbol represents our parent people or continental African ancestors. We pay homage to our parent people who we owe our historical existence to.
Muhindi (Corn) This symbol represent children. Everyone, regardless if they have children or not, places an ear of corn on the Mat. In the tradition of the Southern culture of African Americans, children belong to and are the responsibility of every adult and are accountable to every adult in the community.
Kikombe Cha Umoja (The Unity Cup) This symbol represents and reinforces the first of the 7 Principles- Umoja or Unity.
Zawadi (Gifts) This symbol represents gifts that in the Kwanzaa tradition are given to children and youth on the basis of Kwanzaa commitments (based on the 7 Principles) made and kept.
Mishuuma Saba (Seven Principles) This symbol represents the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa- Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.
Each day of Kwanzaa, the family lights one of the candles, which represents one of days and principles of Kwanzaa. On Umoja (Unity) Day, we light the black candle. The black candle is symbolic and representative of black people or African Americans. The lesson and discussion around this candle is twofold. First, inasmuch as the black candle is the unity candle and representative of black people, the family discusses ways to strengthen unity in the family and community in practical terms, using both current and historical (Montgomery Bus Boycott). Second, the family discuss the value and priority placed on respecting black life- not in opposition or indifference to other people’s lives, but in consideration that currently and historically black lives have been devalued and lessen. The lesson here is that “Black Lives”, i.e., black people, matter all the time and in every circumstance.
The Umoja commitment by each family member is often done while or with the candle lighting activity. The family begins by discussing the value of unity and how doing the year each member has contributed to furthering unity in the family (previous year’s Unity commitment) and how they will do more (next year’s Unity commitment) the following year. Note that the Unity (Umoja) commitment) should be measurable and achievable. That is to say, each week/month, there is a way to determine what has been done toward increasing unity in the family).
Umoja Family Activity
The Umoja activity is intended to reinforce the Umoja principle. Therefore, the family engages in an activity of its choosing (e.g., going to or watching a movie together, a family walk). Be sure to make it a fun and enjoyable activity.
Kwanzaa Karamu (The Feast)
There is no special or mandatory food for Kwanzaa. The choice of food is strictly an individual family decision. You may choose to go out for the Kwanzaa meal, order out, or cook. The aim is to make it a special meal in the way you determine.
Heri (Happy) Kwanzaa