Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday celebrating family, history, culture, and community, is observed every year for seven days from December 26 to January 1.
The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya Kwanzaa,” meaning the “first fruits.”
When do we celebrate Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and continues for a week until the New Year. A candle is lit in a special candleholder called a kinara each day of the week.
Some African Americans celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa together. Kwanzaa is not considered a religious holiday but does celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next.
When is Kwanzaa 2020?
Kwanzaa begins Saturday, December 26, 2020 and concludes on Friday, January 1, 2021.
Who Started the Holiday?
The person who developed and championed the Kwanzaa holiday was Maulana Karenga. The holiday was created in 1966-1967.
Mr. Karenga was a professor of African Studies who took great pride in establishing a unique holiday that all African Americans could celebrate. He holds two Ph.D.’s in African Studies and Social Ethics.
What are the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa?
As part of his Kwanzaa philosophy, Professor Karenga established a guide that he called the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.
Here are the seven principles of Kwanzaa in Swahili with English translations and accompanying quotes on each principle:
- Umoja: Unity. We must strive to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
- So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. – Bahá’u’lláh
- Kuiichagulia: Self-Determination.
Equality and self-determination should never be divided in the name of religious or ideological fervor. – Rita Dove
- Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility.
It is our collective and individual responsibility to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live. – The Dalai Lama
- Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics.
- Kuumba: Creativity.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
– Maya Angelou
- Imani: Faith.
The seven guiding principles are intended to give people a glimpse at why Kwanzaa is celebrated and the things Kwanzaa represents. It gives a solid founding rationale for how communities, not just African American communities, can work together to grow and flourish.
How do we Celebrate?
Kwanzaa celebrates African culture. Part of African culture is delicious food. Food can be prepared Cajun-style from the islands; spiced chicken or lamb will be served. Side dishes might include greens, rice, beans, and coleslaw. Fresh fruit is also arranged and eaten with all meals.
In addition, music is a big part of the Kwanzaa celebration. There can be singing (a large collection of songs has been written about Kwanzaa). Playing drums and dancing is also a popular part of Kwanzaa. Children are also encouraged to do crafts that reflect their African heritage.
How to decorate for Kwanzaa
To start, the kinara (a special candleholder representing the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa) is positioned in a place of honor in the house. Colorful fabric may drape the base of the kinara, and art objects are hung and placed around the house. Kwanzaa is all about joy and color, and the decorations reflect this.
Some families celebrate Kwanzaa and Christmas together. The traditional Christmas tree is decorated in Pan-African colors; red, green, and yellow. And the tree is covered with Kwanzaa symbols, including candles, cups, ears of corn, fruits, and vegetables. The festive combination of Kwanzaa and Christmas is a spectacle to behold.
Quotes and Insights
- The Kwanzaa holiday, then will of necessity, be engaged as an ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practices it its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, the well-being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it, and the rich resource and meaning of a people’s culture.
- We have religious holidays, and we have secular holidays. I see Kwanzaa as an opportunity for African Americans to reaffirm ourselves if we choose to, a chance to rebuild and renew our focus. I see Kwanza as a holiday of the spirit.
- For Africa, to me, is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.
- I say Merry Christmas to people I don’t know or to people I know are Christians. I say Happy Hanukkah to people I know to be or suspect to be Jewish. And I don’t say Happy Kwanzaa because I think African Americans get enough insults all year round.
- Kwanzaa is a pan-African celebration of heritage and culture and family and community. The principles and the manner of observing the holiday lift traditional values that are key to our lives.
- Many Americans celebrate both Christmas and Xmas. Others celebrate one or the other. And some of us celebrate holidays that, although unconnected with the winter solstice, occur near it: Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.
- Kwanzaa is a holiday that should be celebrated by everyone, not just the black community.
- Do what you do. This Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, Twelfth Night, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, St. Paddy’s Day, and every day hereafter. Just do what you do. Live out your life and your traditions on your terms. If it offends others, so be it. That’s their problem.
Bill Clinton on the Holiday
The seven principles of Kwanzaa – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith – teach us that when we come together to strengthen our families and communities and honor the lesson of the past, we can face the future with joy and optimism.
President Bill Clinton
Kwanzaa Instagram Captions
- Kwanzaa is a reminder that good things happen around a table.
- Happy Kwanzaa!
- Habari Gani? (Swahili meaning: How are you?)
- We will never know ourselves if we do not know our history.
- Kwanzaa has a life of its own. Kwanzaa is about the spirit of people.
- I am because we are.
- You are a gift to our community.
- Black and Beautiful.
- Wishing you the joy that unity brings.
- Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. (African proverb)
- So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.
- The time is always right to do what is right.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
By T.R. Moodie
T.R. Moodie believes that we would be better off as a planet if we all celebrated each other’s holidays. So, Habari Gani? (Swahili for How are you, a traditional Kwanzaa greeting), Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Las Posadas, Happy Eid Al-Fitr, Glorious Diwali, and Happy Chinese New Year.
You’re on our Kwanzaa Holiday and Quotes page.
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