Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday honouring African culture and traditions. It falls between December 26 and January 1 each year. Maulana Karenga, an African-American leader, proposed this observance and it was first celebrated in Canada in 1993.
Is Kwanzaa (first day) a Public Holiday?
Kwanzaa (the first day) is not a public holiday. It falls on Sunday, December 26, 2021, and most businesses follow regular Sunday opening hours in Canada.
What Do People Do?
Kwanzaa is a holiday honouring the culture and traditions of people of African origin. It is celebrated by people from a range of African countries and their descendants. Kwanzaa consists of a week of celebrations, which ends with a feast and the exchange of gifts. During the celebrations, candles are lit and libations are poured. A libation is a name given to a ritual pouring of a drink as an offering to a god. During Kwanzaa, a wooden unity cup is used to pour the libations.
A Kwanzaa ceremony often also includes the performance of music and drumming, a reflection on the Pan-African colours of red, green and black and a discussion of some aspect of African history. Women often wear brightly coloured traditional clothing. Some cultural organizations hold special exhibitions of African influenced art or performances during the period of the celebrations.
Originally the people observing Kwanzaa did not mix any elements of other festivals into their celebrations. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly common for people to mix elements of Kwanzaa with Christmas or New Year celebrations. For instance, a family may have both a Christmas tree and a Kwanzaa candlestick on display in their home. This enables them to include both Christian and African-inspired traditions in their lives at this time of year.
Apart from New Year’s Day (January 1), the days on which Kwanzaa falls are not public holidays. It is largely a private celebration observed by individuals, families and local communities. However, it falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when some businesses and organizations may be closed or run fewer services.
The main symbols of Kwanzaa are a mat, on which to put the things needed for the celebration, the unity cup used to pour libations, a candlestick holding seven candles, the seven candles, ears of corn, the Kwanzaa flag and a poster depicting the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; cooperative economics; purpose; creativity; and earth.
The colours of Kwanzaa are red, black and green. The Kwanzaa flag consists of three blocks, one in each of these colours. Three of the seven candles are red, three are green and one is black. Each candle represents one of the principles of Kwanzaa. The candle holder is carved from a single piece of wood and its shape was inspired by the form of the Ashanti royal throne.
Kwanzaa was first celebrated in Canada in 1993. The holiday was proposed by Maulana Karenga to give those of African descent a holiday to celebrate their own cultural heritage and the key values of family and community.