What is Kwanzaa? How do you explain Kwanzaa to a child? We’re discussing who celebrates Kwanzaa and the celebration of pan-African culture to understand and honor African and African American heritage with kids activities, food, traditions, children’s books and more.
Why is Kwanzaa celebrated, how many days is Kwanzaa, and what is the Kwanzaa meaning?
What is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday celebration that honors pan-African heritage, African-American culture, and unity through seven core principles, one for each day of the celebration. Traditions include exchanging gifts and a feast based on traditional African harvest festivals. For many, Kwanzaa is an additional celebration to Christmas, not something that replaces Christmas.
Is Kwanzaa real?
Kwanzaa is a real holiday that started in 1966 as a way to bring African Americans together in a supportive community environment and celebrate heritage instead of observing Christmas.
How many days of Kwanzaa?
There are seven day of Kwanzaa, with each day represented by specific Kwanzaa principles for that day (known as the Kwanzaa seven principles) which correspond to to the lighting of a specific candle for that day.
When does Kwanzaa start?
Kwanzaa is seven days long and starts on the same day every year: December 26. It runs through January 1st as the last day.
When is Kwanzaa 2020?
The Kwanzaa date for this year is December 26th through January 1st. Kwanzaa starts on Saturday, December 26, 2020, and ends on Friday, January 1, 2021.
Kwanzaa History and Kwanzaa Facts
Who started Kwanzaa?
Who created Kwanzaa and the Kwanzaa holiday? The Kwanzaa origin came from Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Karenga is a professor of Africana studies and created Kwanzaa to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”
Karenga has admitted that he initially created Kwanzaa to replace Christmas because he viewed Christianity as a “white religion” and blacks should not take part in it.
However, over the years he adapted his viewpoint when he realized that many black Christian families still wanted to celebrate the basic principles of Kwanzaa and honor African heritage, while also honoring their Christian beliefs.
Today, many families — Christians and non-Christians alike — celebrate Kwanzaa in addition to Christmas or other religious or secular ceremonies for their family during this time.
Why is Kwanzaa important?
According to the Anacostia Community Museum:
“Kwanzaa is that time when we reflect on our use of the basic principles, share and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and recommit ourselves to the collective achievement of a better life for our family, our community, and our people. There are symbols which have a special meaning to the celebration of Kwanzaa.”
Who celebrates Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is celebrated mainly by some African and African American families as a celebration of life and harvest. However, Kwanzaa can be celebrated by any family who wants to celebrate and honor the basic principles of the holiday.
Do you say Happy Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa greetings are much like other holiday greetings. You can wish people “Happy Kwanzaa” the same as you would say “Happy Holidays” or a greeting for other holidays throughout the year. People also say, “Joyous Kwanzaa.”
Is Kwanzaa religious?
The meaning of Kwanzaa is from “matunda ya kwanza” in Swahili and based on something called “first fruit” traditions. The First Fruits Festival is a South African tradition of providing the “first fruits” of the harvest as an honor to God. So what religion is Kwanzaa? Africans and African Americans of all different faiths and secular beliefs celebrate Kwanzaa. There is no specific Kwanzaa religion.
What are the seven principles of Kwanzaa?
There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba. The seven candles, or the mishumaa saba, each stand for a different principle.
What do the 7 candles in Kwanzaa stand for?
Kwanzaa 7 Principles:
- Umoja: Unity.
- Kujichagulia: Self-Determination.
- Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility.
- Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics.
- Nia: Purpose.
- Kuumba: Creativity.
- Imani: Faith.
Does Kwanzaa use a menorah?
Some people may call the candle holder the “Kwanzaa menorah.” However, the candle holder for Kwanzaa is called a kinara, which is a special candle holder for the seven candles of Kwanzaa. There are three red candles placed on the left which represent struggle, three green candles on the right representing land and hope for the future, and a black candle in the middle representing people of African descent.
Some people find similarities between Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. The Kwanzaa kinara is like a menorah used in Hanukkah, but not exactly the same as the number of candles and meanings vary. Many family members dress in traditional African clothing while lighting the kinara.
What order do you light Kwanzaa candles?
The black candle is the first Kwanzaa candle lit in the kinara, or candle holder. The next candle lit is the red candle on the end and it alternatives between the red and green candles, left to right, working outward in. One candle is lit each night of Kwanzaa.
Order you light Kwanzaa candles for the Kwanzaa 7 days:
- Kwanzaa Day 1: Black Candle for Umoja
- Kwanzaa Day 2: Red Candle (left side on the end) for Kuji.
- Kwanzaa Day 3: Green Candle (right side on end) for Ujima.
- Kwanzaa Day 4: Red Candle (next to the previously lit Red Candle) for Ujamaa.
- Kwanzaa Day 5: Green Candle (back on right side next to previously lit green candle) for Kwanzaa Nia.
- Kwanzaa Day 6: Last Red Candle for Kuumba.
- Kwanzaa Day 7: Last Green Candle for Imani.
On the last night of Kwanzaa, the entire family enjoys a huge feast (karumu), drinks from the Unity Cup, and then extinguishes the candles.
What are the 7 symbols of Kwanzaa?
Along with the seven principles of Kwanzaa (represented by the candes), there is also the set of traditional Kwanzaa symbols placed on the table.
A Kwanzaa symbol includes:
- Mazao: crops.
- Mkeka: mat where the other items are placed on the table.
- Kinara: candleholder.
- Muhindi: corn.
- Kikombe cha umoja: unity cup.
- Zawadi: gifts.
- Mishumaa saba: seven candles.
Kwanzaa How To Celebrate
What Are Kwanzaa Traditions?
Each day of Kwanzaa is greeted by saying, “Habari Gani?” which is Swahili for “How are you?”
Each day includes the lighting of the corresponding Kwanzaa candle for that day and discussing the meaning.
The daily celebration may also include:
- Kwanzaa songs
- Interpretive dance
- Learning about African history
You may be interested in learning more by watching The Black Candle: A Kwanzaa Celebration, which is a documentary film narrated by Maya Angelou.
Do you give gifts on Kwanzaa?
The focus of Kwanzaa gifts, or zawadi, is on homemade gifts or cultural gifts purchased through black-owned businesses. Most families strive to remove commercialization from this holiday.
How do you decorate for Kwanzaa?
Families decorate their home with the traditional African Kwanzaa colors: black, red, and green. For the rest of the Kwanzaa decorations, you will also need a mat (mkeka) of woven straw or fabric for the table and kinara with one black candle, three green candles, and three red candles.
Also a family will need a Unity Goblet, as well as the Muhindi, or the ear of corn (for each child) where the stalk represents the father and the ear of corn represents the child. There is also fresh fruits.
Families may also display the Bendera ya Taifa, or flag, facing East and African folk art throughout their home during the time.
What is Kwanzaa food?
The Kwanzaa Karumu, or feast, is traditionally celebrated on December 31st. Generally, Kwanzaa traditional food represents African bounty and harvest. The main dish is a one pot stew, with additional dishes to accompany it. Although there are no particular dishes that are specifically for Kwanzaa, families may choose to cook traditional African dishes or even classic African-American dishes.
Foods to make for Kwanzaa:
- South African curry
- Pepper pot stew
- Fish or fish cakes
- Jerk chicken
- Creole gumbo
- African peanut soup
- Rice or grits
- Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas, rice, and bacon/ham)
- Candied yams or sweet potatoes
- Mustard or Collard greens
- Biscuits or spoon bread or sweet potato biscuits
- Kwanzaa cake
Children’s Books About Kwanzaa