The Principles of Kwanzaa >
Umoja (Unity) > To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) > To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) > To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) > To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose) > To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity) > To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith) > To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Source: Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa founder
On December 26, 1966, the first day of the first Kwanzaa was celebrated. How much do you know about the seven-day tribute to African-American culture?
1. Dr. Maulana Karenga is credited as the designer of the seven-day holiday. At which California school did he work as a professor in the Black Studies department?
B. CSU Long Beach
C. San Francisco
D. UC Berkley
2. Karenga created the holiday largely in response to…..
A. The riot in Watts
B. The death of Dr. Martin Luther King
C. The Vietnam War
D. A challenge from a student
3. Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means what in Swahili?
A. Gathering of equals
B. Growing branches
C. Mother of descendants
D. First fruits
4. The celebration focuses on the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles of African culture. Four of these are unity, self-determination, cooperative economics and collective work and responsibility. Which of the following is not one of the other three principles?
5. What traditionally comes on January 1, the final day of Kwanzaa?
A. Quiet reflection
B. The lighting of the black candle
C. The exchange of gifts
D. Bible study
Not a religious holiday, Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday about the festival of the first harvest of the crops. It begins on December 26, and lasts for seven days.
The name Kwanzaa, sometimes spelled Kwanza, comes from a phrase which means “first fruits” in Swahili, an East African language.
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States honoring African heritage and culture, marked by participants lighting a kinara (candle holder). It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, primarily in the United States. Kwanzaa is considered one of the primary holidays within the U.S. Christmas and holiday season.
Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Ron Karenga and was first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967.
The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, meaning “first fruits”. The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, especially in the 1960s.
The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) > Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa honors a different principle. These principles are believed to have been key to building strong, productive families and communities in Africa. During Kwanzaa, celebrants greet each other with “Habari gani,” or “What’s the news?”
Colorful Celebrations > Families gather for the great feast of Karamu on December 31. Karamu may be held at a home, community center, or church. Celebrants enjoy traditional African dishes as well as those featuring ingredients Africans brought to the United States, such as sesame seeds (benne), peanuts (groundnuts), sweet potatoes, collard greens, and spicy sauces.
Especially at Karamu, Kwanzaa is celebrated with red, black, and green. These three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa that gained new recognition through the efforts of Marcus Garvey’s Black Nationalist movement. Green is for the fertile land of Africa; black is for the color of the people; and red is the for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom.
The Seven Symbols > Celebrants decorate with red, black, and green as well as African-style textiles and art. At the heart of Kwanzaa imagery, however, are the seven symbols.
Learn more about Kwanzaa >