Philadelphia celebrates Kwanzaa in City Hall ceremony [photos]

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On its 50th anniversary as a African-American cultural holiday, Kwanzaa was celebrated at Philadelphia City Hall Tuesday.

Kwanzaa celebrations include a host of symbols, said Maisha Sullivan Ongoza, head of the Kwanzaa Cooperative. A straw mat represents the foundation; seven candles stand for each day of the weeklong; corn symbolizes children; and fruits represent the harvest and the ability to sustain for another year.

“Each symbol is meaningful,” she said. “And when you set your table, make sure it looks nice and special.”  

Specific types of gifts are given during Kwanzaa.

“But not one every day,” Ongoza said. “People got that mixed up with Hanukkah, so we have two types of gifts — a cultural gift or educational gifts.”

Mayor Jim Kenney was presented with a kinara — or candle holder — and a unity cup for the city to start its own Kwanzaa display.

He read the seven principle of the holiday at the event.  “They are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith,” he said.

The celebration runs through Sunday.

 

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