What is black and red and green
with seven significant flames?
The candles of Kwanzaa, an observance designed to review the old year and establish goals for the new.
The word Kwanzaa is a Swahili word and means “first fruits.”
Kwanzaa (/ˈkwɑːn.zə/) is a week-long annual celebration held in the United States and other nations of the African diaspora in the Americas to honor African heritage in African-American culture. It is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in gift giving and a feast.
The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green; black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. Therefore, there is one black candle, three red and three green candles. These are the mishumaa saba (the seven candles) and they represent the seven principles, which include unity, cooperation, creativity, purpose, and faith.
In years past, I have included Kwanzaa (along with Hanukkah), in my greetings at Christmas, so I wouldn’t leave anyone out. I must admit, my inclusion of Kwanzaa was perfunctory at best. I didn’t know much about it. However, when I saw a TV interview on First Coast News/Jacksonville, I realized the celebration was not a particularly religious tradition, but a nondenominational observance. Though I celebrate Christmas, not Kwanza, I can respect its principles, translatable in my own life and practice.
Love of Color
The colors of Kwanzaa are the colors of Christmas + the color black. I LOVE color and said so in three previous blog posts,
Purple Passages in Rainbow Colors
MY WORD for 2020
In the past three years, my guide words have included
Last year, 2019, brought PUBLISH to life.
For this year, I considered words like brave, listen, and potential. These are great words, but none of the three captured my imagination.
Then, Eureka! Writer Wendy MacDonald’s choice of “beauty” in November resonated with me entirely. Why? I can observe beauty as I continue my writing goals.
The blurb on my Instagram profile written several years ago solidified my choice:
So, my word, it’s 2020, a new decade dedicated to beauty in all its forms
The color of flowers
The Color of Love
The monochrome of human hands . . .
How do you define beauty?
How has beauty shown up in your own life?
News flash: Linda Joy Myers of the National Association of Memoir Writers, is featuring my book, Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl, on the January Virtual Book Club. Click here for more details.
Beauty is a great word for 2020! I picked three but the most important for me was motion as I believe I need to keep on moving,in so many ways. Thanks for the explanation of Kwanzaa. Have a beautiful 2020!!
“Motion” would work for me too, but after the hustle and bustle of last year publishing, I chose a word with less horsepower. Even beholding beauty requires noticing and observing.
Best wishes as you put into motion your beautiful goals in 2020, Darlene!
Beauty is the perfect world for you, Marian. It’s encompasses everything about you. My word came to me during my recent struggle with the flu. I’ll have to get a post written. Your photos are gorgeous! Happy New Year!
I meant to answer your question about beauty showing up. Mine showed up on Christmas Eve. I shared the video on my Author Facebook page. I don’t know how to post it here…it’s a video of my mother.
Jill, I hope you’re recovering from that awful flu; I have several other friends who were laid low from it over the holidays. And Marian, I meant to mention in my (overlong comment, below) that I appreciate learning more about Kwanzaa. I also like the meaning and tradition of this holiday, now that I know more about it.
Thanks, Pam. It was the worst flu I’ve ever had. Thankfully, I’m doing better. xo
U G H. I’m wondering if you had a flu shot. Stay strong and healthy now!
Oh yes, I always do…it’s a must for my Remicade infusions.
Yes, I thought so, and I was upset with myself for asking – rather personal question. I’m so glad you’ve recovered. May the sun shine strong in your life, and your body feel even stronger. <3
Oh, don’t be upset…my life is an open book! LOL! <3
The moan of the blogger – but in all good ways, my friend. 🙂
No, Jill, I missed it. Your mother is SO sweet. She really got carried away with your cuddly gift. Her answer to your question was touching. Folks: Here is the link for this super short video: https://www.facebook.com/jillweatherholtauthor/videos/1025386061150155/
Thank you for adding this, Jill!
She really loved it. The cat had hundreds of reviews on Amazon. Many were written by friends and family of Alzheimer’s patients who’d purchased the cat for a loved one. Thanks for sharing the link. xo
You’re welcome, Jill!
Loved the video, Jill! So precious.
It really is. I’m glad you enjoyed it, L. Marie!
Good morning, Marian! You know I love color and try to find beauty around me, as you do. I don’t choose a word for the year, but I agree with Jill that beauty is certainly a perfect word for you. I wish you much [continued] success with your book!
Your kitchen is generally where you create, Merril, but I know you look UP to the sky and OUT beyond your kitchen windows for inspiration. Thanks for your good wishes, I knew that book promotion was Part 2 of the publishing process, and now I am experiencing it. Wow, what a ride!
Good morning! I feel like I’m having a coffee/tea clutch (what IS a clutch and why did that word come to my mind?) as your post popped up early this morning and I see that Darlene, Jill, and Merril have already weighed in. Weighed in, yes, because our words are weighty despite (or because of) their lightness of being. Oh dear, I’m in one of those moods. Anyway, I agree with Jill; beauty is the perfect word for you. Having read your memoir, I felt how you struggled as a “plain girl’ to find ways to bring beauty into your life (and on your person) even though you were supposed to be “plain.” I was just thinking to myself about the receptionist at the hair salon I go to (it was a cut&color day yesterday). Her face is rather plain with a too large mouth and smallish eyes. B U T, she always wears a beautiful smile, rouge on her cheeks, bright-colored clothing, chunky happy necklaces and earrings, and she compliments every woman who walks into the shop. In other ways, she is beautiful. Beauty is as beauty does, yes?
Pam, you make this space feel like a coffee klatch (variant of “clutch” I guess.) Thank you! I appreciate you adding your own thoughts and knitting them to others.
After I read Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I began to see the phrase “lightness of being” in so many places. It just fits sometimes though I remember the book as being rather weighty, not at all light reading.
(You got me started!) 🙂
The girl at the salon sounds beautiful because of her confident, cheery personality, which counts more than conventionally pretty features.
Funny – when I first wrote “Klutch” I wrote it with a K but my spellcheck wouldn’t accept it. I think it’s better than Clutch. Whatever, we friends clutch on to each other with gratefulness. 🙂
Yes, Kundera’s book was much too weighty for me. Dark. I prefer the real sense of a lightness of being….
Marian, I too applaud your decision to choose beauty. You are a beautiful person and have a magnet for beauty inside you.
Of all the photos you selected, I think the monochrome of your mother about to spoon soup into her mouth is the most beautiful.
Thanks for all the compliments here, Shirley.
Writing to you I think of you situated in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley where you met your husband, and now are living there. Back in my college days, “the Hill” was where all the professors lived, a hallowed place in my mind.
Yes, I agree, the monochrome of Mother is a favorite. She conveys here the gratitude and grace with which she lived her life, especially her later years.
Beauty is a great word for you, Marian, because it is an apt descriptor of your life. How wonderful that you include all of those greetings and also took the time to learn about Kwanzaa.
God’s love was the first sign of beauty in my life. And your photos remind me of the beauty of creation. Also, great friendships are a reminder of the beauty of loyalty and sacrifice.
I am so happy for your friendship, L. Marie. When I see cute little dolls, especially with a bit of crochet, I think of you.
Yes, Kwanzaa is a meaningful tradition along with Christmas. I would if you celebrate it. And I agree, God’s love makes all the difference. 😀
I’ll start with the most obvious from our part of the world this morning: beauty is pure white untracked fresh snow and a brilliantly blue sky.
Re Kwanzaa, I think many of those who are not Afro-American have only given the holiday a perfunctory nod. Thanks for the fill in.
I find beauty in both white and black, God made it all. Thanks for your thoughts and lovely photos.
I must admit, I envy your view of pure white, fresh snow and a crystal blue sky. I remember those days in PA, and the lovely hush that accompanied it: traffic stilled, other noise halted.
If I hadn’t seen the Kwanzaa feature on TV, I probably would have still felt ignorant of its meaning. Now its traditions certainly feel more accessible to me.
Thanks for your reflection, Melodie.
Speaking of beauty, this is a beautiful post, dear Marian. I’m enjoying noting God’s beauty each day. Your innocent hands picture especially touched my heart this morning. Thank you for the mention and link to my newsletter.
Blessings as you find His beauty everywhere in 2020 ~ Wendy Mac
It’s lovely to see you here, Wendy. You word choice really resonated with me this year
I work in the pre-school ministry of my church with two-year-olds. These are precious, little hands praying before snack time. Thanks for the comment; do visit again!
…And so I found the BEAUTY in my life on one cold December night in Elizabethtown, PA. Two worlds collided from West meets East and created a new world.
I’m delighted for all of your author/blog friends who share great reflections and encouragements of beauty themselves.
I’m thankful for YOU, of course, and for the devoted friends here who join me each week. Cheers to you and them!
Marian “walks in beauty, like the night” and writes in beauty in the day. I don’t think Lord Byron would mind is I borrowed his poem. 😉 My word is “finish line”…ok, it’s 2 but it’s one concept. Running, training, enduring, to the end – both of a writing goal in mind this year, and as always, to finish well at the end of my days! To the glory of God.
My, I am flattered, Jenn. Lord Byron, no less.
You know I love, love, love your writing style and believe you will make it to the “finish line,” whenever that will be. I hoped for two years, but in the end it was five or six – Ha! Nevertheless, it happened, as it will in your case.
My motto has been “Soli deo gloria!” There can be no great goal. 🙂
Thanks Marian. You are an inspiration and encouragement. Xoxo
Marian — I enjoyed reading this post because (a) I learned more about Kwanzaa, and (b) I discovered your focus word for 2020. BEAUTY — it fits you to a T.
The realiTy of beauTy is that noticing and observing are required to enjoy it. After a busy year publishing, I’m heading toward a more contemplaTive outlook this year.
You really got me going on the T‘s, Laurie. Thank you!
Beauty in so many forms! What a beautiful blog post, written by a beautiful person. I had heard of Kwanzaa, but did not know about the candles and the significance of their colors. Part of our hearts will always be in Africa, where we spent our young married years and where three of our children were born. I will purchase those candles and observe Kwanzaa from now on. Thank you, Marian!
Oh, Elfrieda, I love your reply, especially the last part. Maybe you can take a photo of the candles and use it in a blog post for Christmas/Kwanzaa 2020.
I hope the new year is a good one for you, Hardy, and the family.
I love color–all colors! Purple and green are among my faves… My focus word this year? LOVE <3 Blessings and love to you every day of the new year, dear Marian. <3
I can tell from your blog topics that the natural world and human emotion are very important to you. Love is a wonderful word to focus on in our world of confusion and strife.
All the best in 2020, Bette.
Loved this colorful post and all the diversity, and learning a bit more about Kwanza 🙂 Currently living by my mantra ‘one day at a time’ 🙂
I know you love colour everywhere, especially in fashion. “One day at a time” is a good one for any year. You are probably counting the days until you can enjoy vacay in a warm climate once again. Thanks, Debby!
That’s a fact! Four weeks today woohoo1 🙂
Marian, thanks for this colorful and joy-filled post, plus the explanation of Kwanzaa. Beauty is the perfect word for you as you begin the next decade. I’m considering two, maybe three words, and need to make a decision before this year is over! 🙂 All the best to you and Cliff and your beautiful family in 2020.
Of course I smiled when I read, “I’m considering two, maybe three words, and need to make a decision before this year is over! ” Who said you can’t have 2-3 words strung together? Maybe one word fits better than another in a particular week/month. Ha!
Keep reading, my friend, and other things you enjoy in this fresh new year, Sherrey! 🙂
How interesting that just about every culture on Earth has a celebration involving lights of some sort around the time of the Winter Solstice to symbolise new life and growth! I wasn’t aware of Kwanzaa, but it makes sense; it also looks very much like Hanukkah. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.
I like your chosen word, Beauty, for I know we can all relate to it, coming as it does in so many different forms and it’s all around us. The best kind of beauty, in my opinion, is to be found in Nature and I love flowers and plants in general as well as animals. Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you find beautiful human souls too! 😉
Thanks, Fatima! You have a talent for spotting beauty in your environment: travels and now situated in a home. I agree, nature is a fount of beauty and I must walk in the preserve every day to be nourished by it. Even leaf-less trees have stark beauty as do the cardinals, ospreys, and geese around us.
I’ve met several beautiful human souls when I began blogging, including you.
That’s a very kind thing to say. Thank you. And you’re part of that soul too.
Oh this is lovely and beautiful like its author Marian thank you. The photos manifest beauty in all its shapes and forms.
As I write, I’ve just had a man come and look at my study with a view painting it, up the stairs as well leading to my study. I’m thinking of an accent wall as well – ie a different shade of what I choose on the wall above my study desk. So my choice of colour is going to be interesting (my husband is having a wobble about this).
Colour is so interesting. Clothing in blue has I’ve thought, never been good on me, but now I find that it is …
Our national flag has all the colours of the kwanzaa and representative of similar. And African clothing is so bright and beautiful.
Great, Susan! I wonder if you’ll show the wall paintings in and around your study on your blog sometime. Readers like me are curious and would enjoy seeing it, I’m sure.
I’ve never read the expression “my husband is having a wobble about this,” but I can certainly guess what this clever phrase means – ha! Marriage is so much about understanding (and negotiation) isn’t it?
I agree, African clothing is so bright and colorful. I wonder if Kwanzaa is celebrated in South Africa or if it’s just an American tradition. Thanks for your newsy comment.
This year I have noticed Kwanzaa being mentioned quite a few times on social media and now I know the meaning…Thank you, Marian…I never choose a word for the year but beauty suits you very much and this post reflects that most beautifully from those lovely cerise flowers to that lovely image of the colour of love …Photos like that always strike a chord with me and tug at my heart strings….An enjoyable post, Marian 🙂
Thanks for chiming in, Carol. I know colour strikes a chord with you: where you live, what you cook – all bright and full of healthy hues!
Without color life would be dull. I recently saw a news story about a young boy who was colorblind and recently received a new pair of glass that corrected the problem. The expression on his face turned to joy when he saw the world in color for the first time.
Lovely post, Marian.
I must have seen a similar story, Joan. Like you, I couldn’t live without color. Also, I didn’t realize that color-blindness could be so easily corrected with glasses.
Despite all the strife in our world today, such inventions cheer the heart and soul. Right?
Beauty is a great word! It’s found in surprising places.
Great tip, Arlene. I found it today in an about-to-bloom hibiscus flower. 😀
BEAUTY is the most perfect word for you because you are beautiful inside and out . 😊
Thank you for the knowledge on Kwanzaa so interesting.
Colour for me is really important because I use it to reflect my mood . Or should say to uplift a mood . Colour is a confidence boost and we all know what suits us don’t we . I love the fuchsia pink in your photo, it’s so becoming.
Our son gets married in May and I love green but I’m told it’s unlucky for the groom’s mum to wear green …Why ? when nature is full of it . I thought a spring green …but maybe not . Sorry I’m rambling like we are chatting over a pot of tea ☕️ 😃
One of the best reasons to visit Wales is to sit down with you for a spot of tea. I can’t imagine anything more relaxing and wonderful than that, no matter what colour you are wearing.
Spring green sounds perfect for a mother-of-the-groom dress. Go for it, my dear! 😉
Thank you for informing me about Kwanzaa, Marian. I use the easy and simple “way out” with my wishes, at the end of the year: Happy Holidays. But, I believe in and I am genuine with those wishes to everyone as well.
What a beautiful and fitting word you picked for 2020. And I also loved all the comments to this post. I guess when one comments late (I’m slowly catching up with my blog reading), one gets a lot of bonus material. 🙂
Looking forward to our meet-up in a couple of days!
I enjoy the “bonus” material on other blogs too when I reply after several days. That’s one of the charms of conversations like these: ready when we are! Yes, we’re looking forward to Wednesday!
Marian, what beautiful photos and a real splash of colour on these grey January days! 😀 I love your word for the year, and your explanation how you decided upon the word. You’ve touched a nerve here and I’ve enjoyed reading all the wonderful and heartfelt comments by so many of your friends.
As for kwanza, my son’s school made a point of marking this festival and somehow it became one of my favourites in the school year … you describe it so well here. Wishing you ‘beauty’ in all you do this year … it’s always there, just a matter of being open to it! xx
Annika, welcome to my blog! I’m so impressed that you read the comments, which shows me you like connecting with others, the goal of our writing – right?
A bit of serendipity led me to more details about Kwanzaa, just a vague notion in my mind. I seldom watch news on TV. Yet, there it was – a feature on a terrific tradition with African origins.
You are always welcome here, Annika. Thanks for the visit today. 🙂
Marian, thank you so much for your lovely warm welcome! 😀 I often read comments on blogs and there were so many familiar names here and to me commenting, the connection between bloggers is the best element of blogging. So wonderful to make friends across the globe! I’m looking forward to reading your posts and happy to be following you!😀
Thanks for information, wonderful posting…
It’s nice to see you here, Dedy. Welcome! I’m glad this post inspired you. Please do visit this space again. I’d like to get to know you better. 🙂
Thank you for the fascinating information about Kwanzaa. Although my DNA, according to the tests I’ve had done, is approximately 1.5% Nigerian, indicating that I have an African ancestor somewhere very far back in my family tree, I knew very little about the holiday.
My word for the year is ‘compassion.’ I think of compassion as love in action, something we all can use more of… even when it means that we must end a sentence with a preposition. 😀
I love your beautiful pictures, Marian. Beauty, to my way of thinking, is another form of love. It’s God’s gift of love for our visual sense.
Thank you, Linda Lee! My curiosity apparently has sparked an interest in the Kwanzaa holiday, and I’m glad.
The focus word “compassion” suits you to a tee. It’s interesting how that tone comes through on your blog. Apparently, it’s one of the fruits of the suffering you have experienced in the past. And I do agree, beauty is a form of love, one of God’s gifts. Though I have visual impairment, I can see well enough to observe beautiful things – and continue driving!
Truly gorgeous shots!
Thank you, Lady Fi!
Thank you, Marian. I’m color starved this brown, grey, and green time of year. Thanks for teaching me a little more about those Kwanza candles and the significance of the color. Thank you for filling my eyes and soul with the colors of light, love, and joy.
You are welcome, Elaine! I’ve been away from the northeast so long, I can’t relate to being color-starved. But do anticipate the glory of the first crocuses and the sunny daffodils. They’re coming . . . all the more to be appreciated. 😀
I’m glad you enjoyed the eye-opening description of Kwanzaa. One of my readers, who lived in Africa during her early married life, said that she will be celebrating this tradition from now on in honor of the faith and friendships she experienced there.