The Spiritual Aspect of Kwanzaa
One of the many appeals of Kwanzaa is its spiritual aspect. Inasmuch as Kwanzaa is a non religious, cultural holiday, it nevertheless has a strong spiritual aspect which is embraced by both the secular and faith-based communities. Indeed, the hyper commercialization the holiday season, especially as it relates to Christmas, has created a yearning for an experience beyond the material which addresses the inner life and the deepest values and meaning of the human experience.
The Kwanzaa holiday anchored in the ethical values and concepts of the African experience both in the United States and on the continent of Africa have deep spiritual implications and elements. These elements, concepts, and practices speak to the inner core of our being and give us an elevated sense of our existence.
Spiritual Elements of Kwanzaa
One of the visible and pronounce spiritual aspect of Kwanzaa is the “ingathering” activity. During Kwanzaa family (extended family or friends) gather to reinforce the bonds of affection, to celebrate the common good, remember those who have transition from earth, affirm the 7 Principles, and celebrate the joy of living give thanks for what has been achieved (the harvest) during the year.
The bonds of affection are the emotional ties which affirm our humanity, and reinforce and deepen our identity as husband and wife; mother and father; and brother and sister, not consumer, student, or employee. These emotional ties allow us to experience the love and oneness of family.
Celebration of the Common Good unites us as one in rejoicing the all of the goods- love, beauty, nature, community, common ends, the 7 Principles- which make up the “Common Good.” The “Common Good” elevated us from the mundane of everyday life, from the routines at work, and from the daily challenges and uncertainty we encounter.
Kwanzaa is also a time of remembrance. It’s a time for remembering those- family and historical whose dedication, sacrifice, and achievement have made it possible for to live with greater freedom and enhanced lives. We remember our parents and grandparents, and other family members as well as friends. In fact, we pour libation (optional) to honor their memory and call forth their names that their love, work and service may not be forgotten. The ancient African sacred text advises: “To do that of value is eternity, a person call for by his/her work and service is not forgotten, rather he/she is remembered because of his/her work and service.”
Kwanzaa is also a time to give thanks and celebrate the joy of living. The day-to day drill of work and school often dulls our senses to the wonders of life and the small blessing that make living oh so beautiful. At Kwanzaa we take time to reflect our “good fortunes” and give thanks and wish for continuing “blessing without numbers and all good things without end.”
Further, the Kwanzaa holiday is a celebration of the 7 Principles: Unity/Umoja, Self-Determination/Kujichagulia, Collective Work and Responsibility/Ujima, Cooperative Economic/Ujamaa, Purpose/Nia, Creativity/Kuumba, Faith/Imani. These life affirming values are themselves a path to spirituality. They lead to the practice of moral life, promoting the well-being of family, community, and others. For example, the unity principle promotes the fellowship and harmony, bonding family, friends and community, which provide a shared understanding and identity.
The collective work and responsibility principle engenders and cultivate human empathy, a cardinal virtue for building character and a central part of our humanity. The cooperative economic principle create and fosters the value for sharing, another cardinal virtue. This value has a multiplier effect in that it increases and strengths family and community unity and makes it more probable that members of these units will be collectively responsible for the well-being of each other.
The purpose principle connects us to a larger purpose, outside of our own individual lives, yielding a more comprehensive and expansive self. And, of course, the principle faith reveals a meaning to life beyond the physical world. Howard Thurman, best expressed the spiritual aspect of faith writing:
Faith is the substance and spirit which makes “tired hearts refreshed and dead hopes stir with the nearness of life; faith is the “promise of tomorrow at the close of everyday, the triumph of life in the defiance of death, and the assurance that love is sturdier than hate, right is more confident than wrong, that good is more permanent than evil.
In sum, celebrate Kwanzaa, celebrate and embrace its awesome spirituality.