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What the Kwanzaa holiday is all about

CORNING, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - The Elmira-Corning branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is holding its annual Kwanzaa celebration next week.

It was created in the United States in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African-American professor at California State University, and celebrates the first fruits of the harvest. 

Some people look at Kwanzaa as an African Christmas or Hanukkah, but really, it's a cultural holiday and not religious. 

The holiday celebrates African Heritage in African-American culture with the number seven seen many times. 

The kinara, or candle holder, is the foundation of seven candles which represent seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. 

At a local celebration next week in Corning, expect to eat.

"We serve a nice round of food," NCAAP President Georgia Verdier said. "We try to include Kwanzaa food like Kwanzaa rice, Kwanzaa salad and yams and things like that. It's all a part of what the African celebration is all about."

It also runs for seven days from December 26 through January 1.

There are even seven symbols that represen the holiday which include a unity cup, the straw mat underneath it, a candle holder (the kinara), the seven candles, fruits nuts and vegetables, ear of corn, and gifts that are given on the final day.

Although Kwanzaa is rooted in African culture, people of all ethnic backgrounds are invited to join and get acquainted. 

"We are living during some problematic times and when we talk about the principle of unity, I think it is important in America and the world that we learn how to unite and be on this ship together," Verdier said. 

The celebration is free and takes place next Friday, December 29 at the Friendship Baptist Church on 120 Pearl St. from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. with performances by the Common Time Choral Group and TTA Southern Tier Sensations. 


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