Book Celebrates Kwanzaa

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[Entertainment: Books]

For weeks now, many of your friends have been talking about Santa. They say he’s going to come one night soon, and he’ll leave presents.

Santa is probably going to leave presents for you, too, but you’re luckier than most kids. Many children only have one day to celebrate, but you have seven days because your family celebrates Kwanzaa.

Perhaps you’ve seen a special candle holder on the table. Maybe you’re busy weaving paper strips into colorful mats. But what does that have to do with Kwanzaa? Find out in the new book "Celebrate Kwanzaa with Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest" by Carolyn Otto.

On the day after Christmas, when everybody else thinks the holidays are over, yours are just beginning because Kwanzaa starts on December 26th. For the next seven days, you and your family will think about what it means to be a part of the black community and you’ll talk about seven important principles.

But before that, for days leading up to this time, you’ll probably help Mama wrap presents (called zawadi), and you’ll weave mkeka mats from paper. On the first night of Kwanzaa, you’ll place your red, green, and black mkeka mats on the table beneath baskets filled with fruits and vegetables. Those filled-up baskets represent the harvest. The kikombe cha umoja, or unity cup, goes on the table, too.

Once everything is in place, you’ll light a black candle, which represents umoja, which is a Swahili word for "unity". Over the next six days, you’ll light another candle and another, while you discuss 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, you’ll feast! There will be dancing, music and singing. On the seventh day, you’ll rest quietly, greet the new year and exchange gifts, remember your ancestors and look forward to the future and another Kwanzaa next December.

Sometimes, the best family traditions are the ones that are not so ancient.

Barely forty 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. Author Carolyn 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. "Celebrate Kwanzaa" is great for reading aloud or as a zawadi for any child.

Book Details: "Celebrate Kwanzaa with Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest" by Carolyn Otto. c.2008, National Geographic. $15.95 / $21.00 Canada. 32 pages


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