Merry Christmas and a Happy Kwanzaa to You by Erin Heeney

My favourite part of the Christmas season is the brightness it brings to the darkest days of the year. I love the holly, jolly spirit and the merry and bright atmosphere. I love the house all sparkly and shiny; decorated with lights, candles, and memories of Christmases Past and loved ones near and far. For me, it is a shiny and bright celebration of the last days of the year; a time of reflection, love, hope, peace, and joy. 

For many others, it is a time of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning "common" and are the basis of the African-American holiday, Kwanzaa.

Over seven days from December 26th to January 1st, Kwanzaa spreads a universal message and celebration of community, family, and culture. Created in 1966 by Dr Maulana Karenga, the holiday was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African roots and heritage; however, people from all backgrounds are welcomed to join in the celebration.

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Today is the fourth day of Kwanzaa which celebrates Ujamaa: cooperative economics. The themes of unity, family, and equality encourage people to work together to prosper and thrive by creating and maintaining their own resources. Sounds pretty good to me.

No matter your background, the seven principles of Kwanzaa hold value and hope for a life well lived and shared with others.

To those who celebrate, Heri za Kwanzaa to you. To those who are just learning about Kwanzaa, here is a quick overview of the seven principles:

SEVEN PRINCIPLES

The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.

Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah) To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.