Kwanzaa celebrates 50 years of honoring African-American culture

This photo taken Dec. 8

This photo taken Dec. 8

When people wish  one another “happy holidays,” they’re usually referring to Christmas and Hanukkah. But Kwanzaa, the winter celebration of African-American culture, is becoming an established December tradition, running from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

Kwanzaa began 50 years ago, founded as an alternative to Christmas and Hanukkah. Since then, it’s become a yearly celebration of African-American culture, but it’s had some difficulty finding its place on the crowded holiday calendar.

“A lot of people know about our traditional celebrations around Christmas. A lot of people know about traditional celebrations around Hanukkah,” said Jack Drummond, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Black Male Engagement. “And we’d like to put Kwanzaa on many peoples’ radar as well.”

The city is planning to celebrate Kwanzaa’s 50th anniversary this week along with observances of Christmas and Hanukkah.

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“The city would like to, under Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, officially acknowledge Kwanzaa for the 50th anniversary,” he said. “And we’re also looking to acknowledge it symbolically starting next year in 2017 with the presentation of a kinara.”

The kinara holds seven candles, each symbolizing one the seven core principles of Kwanzaa, called the Nguzo Saba. Each night of the celebration, a candle is lit, starting with the black one. That symbolizes the African people; the red candles stand for their struggle; and the green candles indicate the future and hope that comes from their struggle.

On Tuesday, the Please Touch Museum will host its second annual Kwanzaa celebration; president and CEO Trish Wellenbach said it represents a great learning experience for kids and parents.

“Adults learn from children just as much as children learn from adults,” she said. “And to see young children just embrace the diversity of different cultures is a wonderful way for us to demonstrate to the community our openness and our willingness to learn from others and to appreciate that all cultures have value and traditions we can learn from.”

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