Kwanzaa is an African-Americans celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January. Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home.
I have celebrated Kwanzaa for over 30 years and Kathy and I have celebrated together for the past 14 years.
Kwanzaa is a holiday rich in symbolism and culture. I love it’s rituals, principles and lack of materialism.
This year we celebrated Kwanzaa in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We hope this will be an annual event.
Kwanzaa has seven core symbols:
1. Mazao: Crops – Mazao symbolizes the fruits of collective planning and work, and the resulting joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving part of African harvest festivals. To demonstrate mazao, people place nuts, fruits, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.
2. Mkeka: Place Mat – Just as the crops stand on the mkeka, the present day stands on the past. The mkeka symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for people to stand on and build their lives.
3. Muhindi: Ear of Corn – The stalk of corn represents fertility and the idea that through children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One vibunzi is placed on the mat for every child in the family.
4. Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles – Candles are ceremonial objects that serve to symbolically re-create the sun’s power, as well as to provide light. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle that are placed on the kinara.
5. Kinara: The Candleholder – The kinara represents our ancestry, and the original stalk from which we came.
6. Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup – On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the libation ritual is performed to honor the ancestors. Every family member and guest will take a drink together as a sign of unity and remembrance.
7. Zawadi: Gifts – On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, and success. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity.
Kwanzaa celebrates what Doctor Karenga calls the Nguzo Saba (the seven principlesl. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili word meaning “common”. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles.
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
Chiang Rai is known for its colorful edifices. Our lovely group of 10 set off from Chiang Mai to explore the Blue and White Temples and the Black House. We left at 6 am for the 4 hour drive to Chiang Rai in a comfortable air conditioned van. Our driver, Pituk, was friendly and helpful. We made one stop half way there at a local hot springs. There we had a restroom break and were able to purchase some local fruits, goodies and clothes.
Early in November I got an email from GirlTrek.org. They inspired me to start a new tradition, right here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Today, Friday, November 29 we gathered at a local park and got our walks/runs on. It was a wonderful way to work off our big Thanksgiving meals, talk and get to know each other better. The Brothers and Sisters of Chiang Mai were well represented! From Northern and Southern California; Louisville, KY; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, the Cayman Islands; Eritrea; Little Rock, AK; and Lampang, Thailand we showed up and out!
Hope you enjoy the pictures from this glorious day and of these amazing folks!
The National Museum of Chiang Mai is a small space, located on lovely grounds. The majority of the exhibits were of Buddha statues. There were also exhibits on the history of the Lanna Kingdom. My intention is to do once a month excursions to local spots of interest. A small group joined me today and I enjoyed this first excursion greatly!
There are many types of visas obtainable for travel to or living in Thailand. If you are visiting for less than 30 days this post is not for you. You are able to fly in and obtain a visa exemption on arrival at no cost.
However, for those who wish to spend a significant amount of time in Thailand here is some information you might find helpful.
There are 5 Thai embassies here in the U.S. Luckily there is an embassy right here in Los Angeles. While it is possible to obtain many types of visas in Thailand we found the process much easier here.
If you are 50 years or older you can get a retirement visa, good for a one year stay. The big advantage of getting it in the U.S. is that you only need to provide proof of 800,000 Thai Baht (approximately $25k) in the bank. If you get this visa in Thailand you must put your money in a Thai bank. This is probably perfectly safe but we do have some concerns. The cost of this visa is $200. See the link above for all details.
No matter what type of visa you want, read the information provided in the links carefully and do your best to follow the directions to the letter.
Some things we found out:
No matter the type of visa, you must pay by cashier’s check or money order. Cash is not accepted. We saw several people turned away because they missed this in the instructions.
Arrive in the morning. Long lines but the service is pretty fast.
Don’t pay for expensive passport photos. Take your own. There are several apps that can help. We saved over $60 dollars doing this!
Have all your paperwork in order. The more organized you are the easier it seems to go.
For the retirement visa you must obtain notarized statements from your bank. Our credit union provides free notary service which made it easy.
Also for the retirement visa you must have a clearance from your doctor and a letter from local law enforcement. The instructions say these must be notarized as well. Turns out this means that you sign the clearance reports and have your signature notarized.
We felt kind of overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork… breathe deeply, take your time, check, double check and recheck.
The laws and regulations can be confusing, they change a lot too. Be sure you visit the official Thai government websites and don’t hesitate to ask questions (I called the embassy at least 4 times).
I hope this information is helpful. Thailand is such a wonderful country, the visa processes are relatively easy and most importantly…BOLT will be there! We hope to see you soon.