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Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that honors African American heritage and encourages unity in the community; it is not a religious holiday. It is celebrated for seven days from December 26 to January 1 and focuses on seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African American man, created Kwanzaa in 1966, during the civil rights movement because he wanted African Americans to be proud of their culture. He based the model of Kwanzaa on the harvest or first fruits festivals of Africa. The word Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase, matunda ya kwanza, which means first fruits.

During each day of Kwanzaa, families gather to light one of the candles in the kinara or candle holder and discuss the principle of the day. On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, family and friends join together for a big feast called Karamu, which may include storytelling, singing and African drumming. Handmade and educational gifts are exchanged on the final night. Although families celebrate Kwanzaa once a year, they try to live by the principles of Kwanzaa all year long.

Did You Know?

  • Kwanzaa has seven principles, seven symbols, lasts for seven days and has seven letters in the name.
  • The U.S. Postal Service has issued 5 stamp designs for Kwanzaa.
  • An estimated 20 million people celebrate Kwanzaa worldwide.

Check These Out!


My First Kwanzaa
Katz, Karen
A girl describes how she and her family celebrate the seven days of Kwanzaa.
A Kwanzaa Holiday Cookbook
Raabe, Emily
Explains the holiday of Kwanzaa and includes recipes related to the holiday.
The Children's Book of Kwanzaa
Johnson, Dolores
A guide to the origins, principles, symbols, and celebration of the African-American holiday.
Seven Spools of Thread
Medearis, Angela Shelf
When they are given the seemingly impossible task of turning thread into gold, the seven Ashanti brothers put aside their differences, learn to get along, and embody the principles of Kwanzaa. Includes information on Kwanzaa, West African cloth weaving, and instructions for making a belt.
Kwanzaa Crafts
Gnojewski, Carol
Provides information about the origin and customs of Kwanzaa, ideas for celebrating this holiday, and directions for making such crafts as people dolls, a centerpiece, and African clothes.
Kwanzaa
Doering, Amanda
"A brief description of the African American holiday of Kwanzaa, including how it started and ways people celebrate this cultural holiday"--Provided by publisher.

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