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Resolutions Kwanzaa

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Key Stage 1/2

Aims

To look at the African American festival Kwanzaa.

Preparation and materials

  • If you are not familiar with Kwanzaa, prepare by doing a little research. Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrating family, community and African culture. Its roots are in ancient African harvest celebrations and its name comes from the Swahili ‘matanda ya kwanza’, which means ‘first fruits’. Find out more at: www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/index.shtml See also 'Kwanzaa' and 'A recipe for better times' in Caitlin Matthews, While the Bear Sleeps (Barefoot Books, 1999).
  • If you wish to find alternative prayers, see Carol Watson’s Prayers for a Fragile World (Lion, 1997) particularly the section ‘Lord, in the future  . . .’, and Sabrina Dearborn and Olwyn Whelan’s, A Child's Book of Blessings (Barefoot Books, 1999).
  • You will need:

    – seven tall candles - either separate or all joined together as one unit – and matches
    – seven cardboard shapes and pins – one shape will be pinned to each candle during the assembly
    – bowl of soup.

Assembly

  1. Begin by asking four or five children to come up to the front and sit in a circle to represent an African American family. The family is celebrating Kwanzaa. This is a cultural festival that takes place between 26 and 31 December. It focuses on all that is good in the universe and involves a commitment by everyone to preserve these things in the New Year, a bit like New Year’s resolutions.

  2. Place the seven candles and the bowl of soup in front of the family and draw attention to these objects.

    Ask the children what the candles are for (some of them may remember learning about the Hanukkah festival).

    Explain that the candles represent seven things which are important to the family as they live their daily lives. Older children may like to know that these are:

    – unity
    – self-determination
    – collective work and responsibility
    – sharing
    – purpose
    – creativity
    – faith.

    The family members promise to make time for these things in the coming year.

  3. Ask the children to suggest what is most important about life in school. They are likely to offer suggestions such as helping children who are hurt, welcoming new people, sharing equipment, valuing children’s efforts and achievements, looking after the environment and listening to each other. 

    Write each idea in turn on to one of the card shapes and then pin it to a candle. Continue until each candle has a card. Be careful to position the cards well away from the candle wicks, so that they can be lit safely.

  4. Explain that the seven ideas can be used as focuses for the New Year. 

    For these things to remain important, they have to be given time and attention. So, take each idea in turn and ask what sorts of things would need to happen for each one to remain an important thing in school. For the idea of valuing others, for example, each child could make the effort to tell another child that they liked his or her work or contribution to a play or game.

  5. The candles can now be lit as the words on each card are read out. 

Time for reflection

Ask the children to focus on the idea on one of the candles and consider what they as individuals can do to keep its message in mind in the coming weeks.

Prayer
Lord, 
We will soon start a new term, a new year.
We all have different gifts, different hopes and different fears, but we are all loved by you.
Help us to remember this.
All through the year, help us remember what is important in life and give you thanks.
Amen.

Ideas for follow-up activities

  1. Tell (or, if circumstances allow, enact) the story behind the soup cup. The family members share the cup or bowl of soup. This represents their unity. A little soup is left after all have had some and this is poured on the ground to remember their ancestors, their deliverance from slavery and to remind them of the gifts the family has inherited from them. The meal is a celebration of this heritage. The children may be familiar with the Jewish festival of Passover and how this symbolically re-enacts past events. Explore with them how it is important to remember special moments in the past during assemblies and so on. This gives us a sense of our community and reminds us of its key values, helping us to resolve to live them out in the future.

  2. Develop further the symbolism of the soup. The soup can be made in different ways, but there are common ingredients. We may not particularly enjoy an individual ingredient by itself, but it plays an important role in the soup. Read the story ‘A recipe for better times’ in Caitlin Matthews, While the Bear Sleeps (Barefoot Books, 1999). It explains that just as ordinary objects can be transformed into something beautiful, so a person we may not like, may even despise, might have qualities far better than our own. Everyone is special and important in some way and we should resolve to look for what is of God in everyone we meet.

Song/music

'Lord, the light of your love' (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 479, 2008 edition)

'Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning' (Come and Praise, 43)

Publication date: December 2014   (Vol.16 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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