Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa Quick Facts

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2017 Date:December 26, 2017
2018 Date:December 26, 2018

2017 Holidays & Dates

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa History

Kwanzaa is an African-American and Pan-African celebration of family, community and culture. Kwanzaa, a week-long cultural festival from the 26th of December to the 1st of January that climaxes in feasts and gift giving, was initially established to unite African-Americans with their African roots and heritage.  Nguzo Saba, the seven principles that guide the holiday, is central to Kwanzaa as a different principle is emphasized every day during the celebration. Celebrants often dress in traditional Pan-African clothing and decorate their homes in African artwork.

Kwanzaa was created in 1965 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a major figure in the Black Power movement, with the intention of providing African Americans with a link to their ancestral heritage. Karenga aimed to bring together African-Americans as a community through the combination of various aspects of other celebrations such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and African Yam Festivals. Since Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one; it can be celebrated by Africans from all religious backgrounds.

Kwanzaa Facts & Quotes

  • The name Kwanzaa is derived from Matunda ya kwanza, which in Swahili means first fruits.  Kwanzaa is based on the Ashanti and Zulu traditions of first fruit harvest celebrations.
  • Each day of Kwanzaa celebrates one of 7 principles, known as Nguzo Saba.  These include Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.
  • The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green.  Each color carries an important meaning to unify those of African descent.  Black is for the people, red for the noble blood that unites all people of African descent and green for the land of Africa.
  • A candle holder, called a Kinara, holds the seven candles that represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
  • The seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith -- teach us that when we come together to strengthen our families and communities and honor the lesson of the past, we can face the future with joy and optimism. - Bill Clinton

Kwanzaa Top Events and Things to Do

  • Read about the seven principles of Kwanzaa with your family.  These principles teach about working together, learning from the past and strengthening bonds.
  • Attend a Kwanzaa celebration event.  In 2015 the most popular events were the Energize, Recognize! event at then American Museum of Natural History (NYC), Regeneration Night at the Apollo Theater (NYC) and the Celebration at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Detroit, MI).
  • Prepare a festive Kwanzaa dinner.  Include Kwanzaa foods include:
    1) Shisa nyama (meat cooked over a hot wood fire).
    2) Kapenta with sadza (kapenta is a freshwater fish and sadza is a maize porridge).
    3) Nyama na irio (mashed potatoes, peas, corn and onion served with spicy roast meat).
  • Give festive Kwanzaa gifts to your friends and family.  Some traditional gifts include a food basket, kinara candle holder, books about African culture and handwoven items like gloves and scarves.
  • Watch The Black Candle (2008).  This is a vibrant and powerful documentary that illuminates the African-American experience from the perspective of Kwanzaa.  Narrated by Dr. Maya Angelou (poet), the documentary won the award for best full-length documentary at the Africa World Documentary Film Festival in 2009.

Kwanzaa (Start) References and Related Sites

Official Kwanzaa Website
Upenn: Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa & the Nguzo Saba: Something Sacred for & from the Souls of Black, Minister Mxolisi Ozo-Sowande, 2010

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