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I Am Because We Are: Celebrate the Principles of Kwanzaa

December 26, 2013

By Jessica Vician

Happy Kwanzaa!

As we near the end of the holiday season, it’s nice to reflect on the various holidays celebrated in December. Through different religions and cultures, many people spend the season trying to be kind and compassionate to others, spending time with loved ones, and giving to those in need. In that holiday spirit, Kwanzaa closes out the month (and the year), overlapping with New Year’s Eve and Day, as the final large religious or cultural celebration.

While Kwanzaa was established to celebrate African heritage specifically in African-American culture, the holiday is now celebrated internationally. Taking place over seven days, each day focuses on a principle that reflects tradition and reason. Regardless of religion or culture, as we look back on the holiday season and prepare to embrace a new year, all of us can incorporate many of Kwanzaa’s principles in our families’ lives.

  • Unity. This principle is rooted in the belief that we are all united. In fact, it stems from an African saying, “I am We” or “I am because We are.” Talk to your children about your family, your community, and the connections that bind you all together. Share your family’s history. Did your family come from Africa, Europe, Asia, South or Central America? Are you native to the United States? Explain your ancestry to your children to help them understand their heritage and take pride in it. Help your children see how fluid the world is, always changing and moving, but always connected.
  • Self-Determination. Teach your children the importance of speaking for themselves and determining their own path in life. There are many children’s movies that feature a main character finding his or her own path and standing up for his or her personal beliefs. Watch the movie with your children and talk to them afterwards about those lessons.
  • Creativity. Help your children understand that as humans, we must help better and beautify our communities through our talents and contributions. If you live in a warmer climate, demonstrate this principle by planting flowers or a tree. In cooler climates, create snow sculptures or work together to make blankets for senior citizens or the homeless. Remind your children that caring for their surroundings and community and bringing beauty to the world is important.

These are only three of the seven Kwanzaa principles, which also include Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, and Faith, all of which you can incorporate into your family’s life. Use this opportunity to bring the holiday’s principles into your New Year as you continue the holiday spirit through practicing compassion toward others and honoring your strengths as an individual, as a family, and as a community.

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