Editor's note: This story was created specifically for Kwanzaa, a cultural holiday begun in America and celebrated by people of African descent all over the world. Kwanzaa starts today and runs through Jan. 1.
In a small African village in the country of Ghana, there lived an old man and his seven sons. After the death of his wife, the old man became both father and mother to the boys. The seven brothers were handsome young men. But they were a disappointment to their father. From morning until night, the family's small home was filled with the sound of the brothers' quarreling.
At mealtime, the young men argued until the stew was cold and the fu fu was hard.
"You gave him more than you gave me," whined the third son.
"I divided the food equally," said their father.
"I will starve with only this small portion on my plate," complained the youngest.
"If you don't want it, I'll eat it!" said the oldest son. He grabbed a handful of meat from his brother's plate.
"Stop being so greedy!" said the youngest.
And so it went on every night. It was often morning before the seven brothers finished dinner.
One sad day, the old man died and was buried. At sunrise the next morning, the village chief called the brothers before him.
"Your father has left an inheritance," said the chief.
The brothers whispered excitedly among themselves.
"Stop that this instant!" the chief shouted.
"You father has decreed that all of his property and possessions will be divided among you equally," said the chief. "But first, by the time the moon rises tonight, you must learn how to make gold out of these spools of silk thread. If you do not, you will be turned out of your home as beggars."
The oldest brother received blue thread. The next brother, red. The next, yellow. The middle son was given orange thread; the next, green; the next, black; and the youngest son received white thread. For once, the brothers were speechless.
The chief spoke again. "From this moment forward, you must not argue among yourselves or raise your hands in anger toward one another. If you do, your father's property and all his possessions will be divided equally among the poorest of the villagers. Go quickly; you only have a little time."
When the seven Ashanti brothers arrived at their farm, something unusual happened. The brothers placed their hands together and held each other tightly. For the first time in years, peace rested within the walls of their home.
"My brothers," said the third son quietly, "surely our father would not turn us into the world as beggars."
"I agree," said the middle son. "I do not believe our father would have given us the task of turning thread into gold if it were impossible."
"Could it be," said the youngest, "that by making something from this thread we could earn a fortune in gold?"
"Perhaps," said the oldest, "we could make cloth out of this thread and sell it. I believe we can do it."
"This is a good plan," said the middle son. "But we do not have enough of any one color to make a full bolt of cloth."
"What if," said the third son, "we weave the thread together to make a cloth of many colors?"
"But our people do not wear cloth like that," said the fifth son. "We wear only cloth of one color."
"Maybe," said the second, "we could make a cloth that is so special, everyone will want to wear it."
"My brothers," said the sixth son, "we could finish faster if we all worked together."
"I know we can succeed," said the middle son.
The seven Ashanti brothers went to work. Together they cut the wood to make a loom. The younger brothers held the pieces together while the older brothers assembled the loom.
They took turns weaving cloth out of their spools of thread. They made a pattern of stripes and shapes that looked like wings of birds. Soon the brothers had several pieces of beautiful multicolored cloth.
When the cloth was finished, the seven brothers took turns neatly folding the brightly colored fabric. Then they placed it into seven baskets and put the baskets on their heads.
The brothers formed a line from the oldest to the youngest and began the journey to the village.
As soon as they entered the marketplace, the seven Ashanti brothers called out, "Come and buy the most wonderful cloth in the world!"
Suddenly, a man dressed in magnificent robes pushed his way to the front of the crowd. Everyone stepped back respectfully. It was the king's treasurer. He rubbed the cloth between the palms of his hands. Then he held it up to the sunlight.
"What a thing of beauty," he said. "This cloth will make a wonderful gift for the king! I must have all of it."
The seven brothers whispered together.
"Cloth fit for a king," said the oldest, "should be purchased at a price only a king can pay. It is yours for one bag of gold."
"Sold," said the king's treasurer. He untied his bag of gold and spilled out many pieces for the brothers.
The seven Ashanti brothers ran out of the marketplace and back down the road to their village.