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December 26 to January 1

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What is Kwanzaa?

Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration of Pan-African and African American heritage, culture, and values.  It is takes place from December 26 to January 1. 


Based on African first harvest celebrations, it is organized around five fundamental kinds of activities: gathering of the people; special reverence for the creator and creation; commemoration of the past; recommitment to the highest cultural values; and celebration. 

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Each day of Kwanzaa observes a different principle:

  1. Umoja (Unity)

  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)

  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)

  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)

  5. Nia (Purpose)

  6. Kuumba (Creativity)

  7. Imani (Faith)

The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.

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The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa

  1. Mazao (The Crops)

  2. Mkeka (The Mat)

  3. Muhindi(The Corn)

  4. Kinara(The Candle Holder)

  5. Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles)

  6. Kikombe Cha Umoja (The Unity Cup)

  7. Zawadi (The Gifts)

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The Colors of Kwanzaa

Red - For the Past Stuggles

Black - For the People

Green - For the Future

Kwanzaa Storytime with
Leslie Manselle and Jedda LaRue

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