Learning! Kwanzaa 101

'Tis the season for "holiday greetings", and in my office the other day we all realized that none of us knew anything about Kwanzaa. So I did a quick google search to rectify the situation, and I figured there might be more people out there embarrassed to admit that they don't know about the origins or practices of Kwanzaa.


Kwanzaa is a celebration of African heritage in African-American culture from December 26-January 1. It was first celebrated in 1966-67 and was started by Maulana Karenga (professor of African Studies). Originally an African-American holiday, it has spread throughout other nations with African diaspora and was intended to help African Americans reconnect with their African heritage. It was also originally intended to be an alternative to Christmas, until Karenga realized that a lot of practicing Christians still wanted to take part in the festival.

A few more fun facts:

Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" (fruits of the harvest)

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa:
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to 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 hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

1.6% of Americans celebrate Kwanzaa (about 4.7 million people!)

Celebration includes decorating one's home with African art and kinaras (a candle holder symbolic of African roots), wearing kaftans and eating fresh fruits. The week-long celebration ends in gift-giving and some delicious food.

Check out the Official Kwanzaa Website for more information!

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