To Our Harrison Family,

I recently had the honor and pleasure of participating in the ceremonial lighting of the Menorah, on the last night of Chanukah with members of the Gloucester County Chabad. It was a special event. Next week we will send out our well wishes for a Happy and Healthy Christmas celebration for our Christian community. Today, however, I want to take a moment to highlight another annual December celebration, Kwanzaa.

This year, the weeklong celebration begins on December 26th and ends on January 1st. Each of the seven days honors particular principles, which are thought to have been fundamental in promoting strong, productive communities and families in Africa. The term “Kwanzaa” originates from a Swahili expression, which means “first fruits of the harvest”.

The holiday was created in 1966 on the heels of the Watts riots in Los Angeles by Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga, a Professor of Africana Studies, author, and Civil Rights activist. His intent was to provide an individual African-American holiday with an “opportunity for those of African descent to celebrate themselves and their history.” Though initially created as an alternative celebration to Christmas, by the late 1990’s, Mr. Karenga altered that perspective to include those practicing Christianity, making Kwanzaa a celebration of culture, community and family.

Today, many African-American families recognize the traditions of both Kwanzaa and Christmas and some Non-African-American families participate in the joyous Kwanzaa traditions. These traditions include decorating their households with objects of art and colorful African cloth such as Kente (colorfully patterned cloth traditionally woven by hand in Ghana), the wearing of kaftans by women, and sharing fresh fruits that represent African idealism. It is customary to include children in Kwanzaa ceremonies and to give respect and gratitude to ancestors.

On behalf of our community and leadership team, I’d like to wish all those who recognize Kwanzaa, a joyous celebration of your culture, ancestry and the spirit of community that it represents. Kwanzaa Blessings to you and yours.

Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor