by Terri Schlichenmeyer
‘Celebrate Kwanzaa with Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest’
Author: Carolyn Otto
Maybe you’re busy weaving paper strips into colorful mats. What does that have to do with Kwanzaa? Find out in the new 32-page children’s book “Celebrate Kwanzaa with Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest” by Carolyn Otto.
On the day after Christmas, when many people think the holidays are over, the holidays are just beginning for those who celebrate Kwanzaa, which begins on Dec. 26. For the next seven days those who celebrate will think about what it means to be to part of the black community and the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
Leading up to the Kwanzaa celebration presents called zawadi will be wrapped and mkeka mats will be woven from paper. On the first night of Kwanzaa, the red, green and black mkeka mats will be placed on the table beneath baskets of fruits and vegetables. The kikombe cha umoja, or unity cup, goes on the table, too.
Once everything is in place, a black candle, which represents umoja, a Swahili word for “unity” will be lit. Over the next six days, candles will be lit and there will be discussions about kujichagulia (self-determination and knowing who we are), ujima (work and responsibility to strengthen community), ujamaa (cooperation and supporting African American businesses), nia (purpose and setting personal goals), kuumba (creativity to make the world a better place) and imani (faith and believing in ourselves and our families).
Many kids love the sixth day the best, because on the sixth day, there is a feast with dancing, music and singing. The seventh day is a day of rest and reflection. The New Year is greeted and gifts exchanged, ancestors are remembered and it is a time to look forward to the future.
Sometimes, the best family traditions are ones that are not so ancient. Barely 40 years old, Kwanzaa, according to a back-page essay for parents and teachers, roots African-American children in their history and culture. This book further reinforces that grounding.
Using photographs of families celebrating Kwanzaa around North America, “Celebrate Kwanzaa” shows kids how they can be an important part of their family’s holiday. Otto explains the reason for celebrating. She tells kids about the excitement in preparing for the ceremonies and fun, and, in the back of this book, she offers a kid-friendly recipe, crafts, a glossary and a list of where you can find more information on this relatively new fete.
Put away a couple of extra Santas this holiday season, bring out a kinara, and grab this book. It is great for reading aloud or as a zawadi for any child.