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All About Kwanzaa

Dec 25, 2014

There are lots of different cultural holidays in December, from Christmas to Hannukah, but one holiday you may not know about is Kwanzaa - a week-long celebration of African and African American history! Find out more in All About Kwanzaa!

What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is a celebration of African heritage and culture that takes place between December 26th and January 1st every year, it is mostly celebrated in North America and by people of African descent around the world. The word "kwanzaa" comes from the Swahili saying "matunda ya kwanza," which means "the first fruits of the season." The holiday was invented by Maulana Karenga, who felt that African Americans needed a holiday that celebrated their own culture and heritage during what is traditionally "the holiday season" in America. Much like other December holidays, like Christmas or Hannukah, Kwanzaa leads up to a day with of feasting and giving gifts among family members. The first Kwanzaa was celebrated in 1966.

All About KwanzaaKwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st

How to Celebrate

To celebrate Kwanzaa people decorate their homes with colorful African cloth and art, and Kwanzaa ceremonies usually involve showing respect for ancestors. Traditional decorative Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat, upon which other symbols are placed: corn to represent crops, a kinara (candle holder with seven candles), a communal cup for sharing libations,gifts and sometimes a poster  of the seven principles that Karenga founded Kwanzaa on. The Seven Principles of African Heritage or "Nguzu Saba" are:

  • Umoja (Unity)
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
  • Ujamma (Sharing)
  • Nia (Purpose)
  • Kuumba (Creativity)
  • Imani (Faith)

All About KwanzaaThe Kinara holds seven candles, which each represent a different principle

Kwanzaa Quick Facts

  • Although Kwanzaa was meant as an alternative to Christmas, many people celebrate both
  • There is a documentary about Kwanzaa called The Black Candle
  • Around 2 million people in America observe Kwanzaa
  • Kwanzaa may be catching on in other countries like Brazil, Canada and Portugal
  • American Kwanzaa stamps were created in 1997 and 2004
  • Some people wear traditional African clothing to celebrate, like Dashikis and Kaftans
Have Your Say

Do you celebrate Kwanzaa? Let us know in the comments section below.



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