CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Hundreds of people packed the DuSable Museum of African American History to mark day one of Kwanzaa.
“We are here celebrating the Kwanzaa spirit. We are here celebrating African culture, and also celebrating our celebrated museum, the DuSable Museum of African American History,” said Erica Griffin, Associate Director of Membership & Volunteer Services at the museum.
“Today is about family and fun,” she added.
Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, created in 1966, and is not a religious holiday. Music, song and costumed performers entertained a packed house Tuesday at DuSable.
Griffin says it is a celebration of community and family, and is a way to reconnect with roots and heritage.
“Kwanzaa basically means the harvest. A series of seven days, where there are principles such as unity, faith and self-determination that all our spirits or principles that we as people feel we are imbued with,” Griffin said. “So every day for the seven days, we highlight one specific principle, and we have subsequent programming, song, dance and remembrance.”
Tuesday was unity.
“We have a Kinara, which looks like a Menorah, but there are seven candles instead of eight,” Griffin said.
Seven candles are burned throughout the entire observance, and each represents a different principal of Kwanzaa. They symbolize the sun’s light and power.
At the beginning of the celebration, all candles are placed on the Kanara, or “candelabra.” The black candle is placed in the middle and all of the red candles are placed to its left. All of the green candles are located to the right. Since the main goal of Kwanzaa is to promote unity, the black candle is the first to be lit on Dec. 26, marking the first night of Kwanza.
“It’s a series of days that we celebrate our culture, and our people and the stories that often times go untold. It’s open to everyone.”
Kwanzaa occurs over the same seven days each year, ending on Jan. 1.