About the Kwanzaa Unity Cup

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When Kwanzaa was first being celebrated by African-Americans, its celebrants felt that it would violate the basic idea of the holiday to celebrate it along side any other holiday, such as Christmas, New Year's or Hanukkah. However, now Kwanzaa celebrants will often have a Christmas tree, as well as a kinara in their home during the holiday season.



Kwanzaa, the first African-American holiday, was created in 1966 by Ron Karenga. The holiday is rooted in the black nationalist movement and is designed to help African-Americans reconnect with their African heritage by studying African traditions and principles. The holiday is observed every year from December 26th to January 1st.


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Principles of Kwanzaa

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Each principle of Kwanzaa has a day dedicated to it during the celebration of Kwanzaa. The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa were originally the Seven Principles of Blackness and are meant to embody tradition and reason. The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa embody much of the black nationalists' beliefs.


Using the Cup

The Unity Cup or Kikombe cha Umoja may be filled with water, grape juice or wine. Before filling the cup you will place it on your straw mat with your other Kwanzaa supplies. Take a sip from the cup and then raise it afterward and announce "Harambee," meaning "Let's pull together," hence the name, Unity Cup. Once you have done this you pass the cup on to the next participant so that they may perform the same ritual.


Kwanzaa Celebration

Besides for the passing of the Unity Cup, Kwanzaa celebrations also include decorations of African cloths, art and fruits. Music is also part of the Kwanzaa celebrations, as well as reading the African Pledge. Basically Kwanzaa celebrations include any activity that is designed to remind African-Americans of their African heritage, such as studying African history.



After all the family members and guests have taken a drink from the unity cup it should be passed to the eldest person in attendance so that they can pour it in the directions of north, south, east and west. The last portion in the cup is treated in this manner because the Ibo of Nigeria believe that drinking this portion will welcome the wrath of the spirits and ancestors, whereas pouring it in the directions of the four winds is supposed to honor the ancestors.


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