The winter holiday season is stuffed with unique traditions, one of which is a non-religious holiday called Kwanzaa.

The Missouri Botanical Garden invites attendees of all faiths to experience this celebration of the harvest on December 27, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The day will be filled with storytelling, craft and jewelry displays, and authentic African drumming and musical performances. Attendance is included with Garden admission.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 during the Black Nationalist Movement by Dr. Maulana Karenga of California State University in an effort to bring African Americans together. He combined aspects of several harvest celebrations to form Kwanzaa’s basis: unity.

Its name is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, according to The three colors of the holiday are black, red and green, a reflection of the Pan-African movement representing unity for those of African descent around the world. Black is for the people, red is for the noble blood uniting all of African ancestry, and green is for the rich lands of Africa.

The holiday begins on December 26 and lasts for seven nights. It centers around seven principles or Nguzo Saba, with a candle on the Kinara lit each evening and the value of that night discussed.

The principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Each day also has its own symbol.

  • Day 1 — Crops symbolize the historical gathering of people.
  • Day 2 — The placemat represents the historical and traditional foundation on which the celebration stands.
  • Day 3 — An ear of corn represents fertility and the future hopes of the family.
  • Day 4 — The candles lit each night represent the sun’s power and light.
  • Day 5 — The candleholder symbolizes ancestry.
  • Day 6 — The cup used in the sixth day meal is poured for those ancestors not present that year.
  • Day 7 — Gifts are given on the final night to encourage growth, self-determination, achievement and success.

For those looking to experience this holiday of plenty at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the address is 4434 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63110. Parking is available free of charge in front of the main entrance into the gardens.

Will we see you there? Let us know in the comments below. Happy Kwanzaa!

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