Denver's Kwanzaa Committee prepares for its 16th year of unique twists on the holiday tradition
For Deborah Sims Fard, this year’s Kwanzaa will be a “different kind of journey.”
Sims Fard’s mother was the one who introduced her to Kwanzaa, and 2023 will be the first year that she’ll celebrate without her mom, who passed away.
“So, I believe that because [my mother] thought it was important, that I need to continue [the celebration of Kwanzaa],” said Sims Fard, who is the executive director of The Denver Kwanzaa Committee.
This holiday season, the Denver metro area continues its deep-rooted history of observing Kwanzaa as the Denver Kwanzaa Committee celebrates its 16th year of unique twists on the holiday tradition.
“[Kwanzaa] is a community celebration that has Black people in mind,” said Sims Fard, who has celebrated the holiday since she was a kid.
“There are many celebrations that are wonderful, all of them are great. But not all of them are inclusive. This is a celebration that has me in mind, has my children in mind, my mother in mind, has our family and community in mind, and I think that is what’s unique,” she said.
Sims Fard said one of the things she find most beautiful about the celebration of Kwanzaa is it does not have a religious affiliation.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor and activist , created Kwanzaa in 1966. The holiday is a celebration observed from December 26 to January 1. A secular practice, Kwanzaa is rooted in African heritage and values and emphasizes community, family and culture. The name "Kwanzaa" is derived from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits."
During Kwanzaa, families come together to light the Kinara, a candleholder with seven candles (three red, three green, and one black). Each night, a different principle is discussed, and the corresponding candle is lit.
There are also other symbols, such as the Mazao (crops), Mkeka (mat), Vibunzi (ear of corn), Zawadi (gifts) and Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup), that are used to represent different aspects of African heritage and values.
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This story from Rocky Mountain PBS was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio. It was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.