Over forty seven years ago, Dr. Ron Karenga, a civil rights activist and college professor, created Kwanzaa to introduce seven values common among most African societies to African Americans and the world. When activated, these important values can strengthen family, community and culture among Black men, women, children, family, and community groups of all kinds.
From December 26 to January 1, many African Americans and others of African descent will celebrate Kwanzaa, a cultural holiday whose Swahili name translates as “first fruits of the harvest.” Kwanzaa is not a religious observation, but can certainly be viewed as a celebration of spirituality. Kwanzaa is not an alternative to Christmas, but because it is observed as Christmas ends, it provides opportunity for seven days of festivity for family and friends. Kwanzaa invites participants to meditate on and interpret its values in ways that are relevant to our individual and collective goals.
Our world is a confusing place. Nearly every day, our sons and daughters are confronted by some form of bullying, disrespect and a complete disregard for authority. These conflicting elements create an environment that makes it tough to be kind. It’s hard to be gentle and meek when you’re constantly fighting against cultural trends and peer pressure.
Centering on cultural reflection, Kwanzaa is also a time to contemplate the benefits healthy eating can have on the body and mind. Why not encourage your loved ones to honor their well-being while they pay their respects to the accomplishments and culture of Africans and African Americans? After all, to make strides in our communities, we should first embrace positive changes in our bodies.
The principles of Kwanzaa can be well applied as healthy living principles. With African Americans at the forefront of every lethal disease type, the principles of Kwanzaa offer ways to think about how we can heal ourselves through positive and culturally relevant action steps.
While this is a time to congregate and reflect upon the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles, it is invariably a time to feast. In contrast to traditional holiday cuisine, however, food served during Kwanzaa need not force you into end-of-the-year pounds and sky-high cholesterol levels.
There are many simple substitutions that you can use to lighten up your holiday culinary celebrations. Look for recipes that incorporate a range of ingredients and a delicious mixture of flavors, so your guests may not notice all the missing fat and cholesterol. And if they do, they’ll probably thank you for the gift of a healthy body, peaceful mind, and soul-preserving food.
Wishing you and your family a Happy Healthy Kwanzaa.