What Is it

Kwanzaa is an annual, week-long celebration held in the United States and other African diaspora nations in the Americas to honor African heritage in African American culture. It is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a donation and a celebration. Kwanzaa has seven basic principles. It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966–67

The story

Kwanzaa is a celebration that has its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s. Karenga established it to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by joining in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the “seven principles of African heritage”, which Karenga said “is an African communal philosophy”. For Karenga, a leading figure in the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the creation of such holidays also underscored an essential premise “You must have a cultural revolution before the violent revolution. The cultural revolution gives identity, purpose and direction”.


Umoja (unity): Striving for and maintaining unity in the family, community, nation and race.

 – Kujichagulia (self-determination): define and name ourselves, as well as create and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (collective work and responsibility): building and maintaining our community together and making the problems of our brothers and sisters our problems and solving them together

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): to build and maintain our stores, shops and other businesses and profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the construction and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity): Always do as much as possible, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we have inherited it.

Imani (Faith): To believe wholeheartedly in our people, in our parents, in our teachers, in our leaders, in justice and in the victory of our struggle.

What people do

During the festival of Kwanzaa, a candle is lit a day and placed on a special candelabra called Kimara and which represents the 7 principles. This candle holder is placed on a special traditional mat made of straw and called mkeka; on the mat there are as many ears of wheat as there are children in the family.

Another important symbol is the fruit basket, called mazao, along with a special cup that symbolizes unity and from which each member of the group must drink. In addition, each family decorates their home with the typical colors of the party: for example, red, green and black are used a lot, representing the colors of the African flag.

On the occasion of Kwanzaa it is traditional to give gifts, the Zawadis, which are exchanged on the last day ofcelebrations.





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