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Nanny advice: Celebrating Kwanzaa

Based in West African tradition, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January 1, ending the year with a week-long observation of "Nguzo Saba," or the seven principles of African heritage. While many family that celebrate Kwanzaa also celebrate Christmas, this is a unique holiday that closes out the winter holiday season.

Kwanzaa celebrations include observances of various ceremonies that include decorations, song, dancing and reading the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness and drumming. Many African-Americans use this week-long holiday to extend Christmas celebrations through the New Year, and if you're a nanny in one of these households, it is very likely that you'll be invited to attend or even participate.

Caring for children in households that celebrate Kwanzaa offers you a unique opportunity to engage in some exciting activities, including a focus on the seven principles: Unity (umoja), faith (imani),  purpose (nia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), self-determination (kujichagulia) and creativity (kuumba). Below are a few of the fun things you can do to help your charges better understand the holiday and get into the celebratory spirit:

Create woven placemats – Woven straw mats are a traditional African craft, and you can use construction paper to make some with your charges as well. Select red, green and yellow or gold paper and cut slices into one larger pieces to slip strips of the other colors through. While you should do the cutting yourself, you can show the children you care for how to weave the paper together to create beautiful patterns.

Make a kinara – The kinara is a ceremonial candleholder, similar to the menorah in the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, which holds seven candles representing the seven principles. These consist of three red, three green and one black candle. The red candles represent the blood of the African people, the green candles represent the hope of new life and the black candle stands for the face of the African people. You can create a kinara with the children you care for with ease out of wood, clay or other crafting materials.

String African flags together – Another great craft idea is to create construction paper versions of the flags of African nations and string them together to make decorative banners the family can hang up for the holiday. 

Kwanzaa is an important cultural holiday celebrated by many families in the Los Angeles area. If you're looking for nanny jobs here, consider some of the different peoples you may work for and be sure to be knowledgeable of their religious and cultural observes. Contact Colonial Domestic Agency for job placement assistance and more information on what it takes to be a great nanny.