Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January.
Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home. Dr. Karenga created this festival for African-Americans as a response to the commercialism of Christmas.
The symbols of Kwanzaa includes crops (mzao) 🎍 which represents the historical roots of African-Americans in agriculture and also the reward for collective labor. The mat (mkeka) lays the foundation for self- actualization. The candle holder (kinara) 🕎 reminds believers in the ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries. Corn/maize (muhindi) 🌽 signifies children and the hope associated in the younger generation. Gifts (Zawadi) 🎁 represent commitments of the parents for the children. The unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja) 🍷 is used to pour libations to the ancestors. Finally, the seven candles (mishumaa saba) remind participants of the seven principles and the colors in flags of African liberation movements -- 3 red ❤️, 1 black 🖤, and 3 green 💚.
Gifts are exchanged. On 31 December participants celebrate with a banquet of food often cuisine from various African countries.
Check out our Kwanzaa reading list! These books exemplify the 7 principles, and are also fun to read too 😉
1. Umoja / Unity - Can We All Just Get Along? Can We All Just Get Along is about Nandi growing up in a household of older siblings that battle over everything – who gets the front seat, who’s looking at who, and who called it first. She has her mind set on teaching her siblings how to get along with each other by example and through song. Nandi has wholeheartedly embraced that she is her Brothers’ and her Sister’s Keeper.
2. Kujichagulia / Self-Determination - Teach Me About Garvey Learn about Marcus Garvey, who's goal was to unite all of African diaspora to "establish a country and absolute government of their own."
3. Ujima / Collective Work and Responsibility - Space Station Elementary Read about how the students of Space Station Elementary joined together with their community to create a better learning atmosphere.
4. Ujamaa / Cooperative Economics - Meko and The Money Tree Meko learns a valuable lesson. Think of your money tree as your potential. There is a place inside of you, full of potential and possibilities. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and you can only spend each dollar once. Choose to spend our money on things that give us the ability to make more money in the future.
5. Nia / Purpose - Not All Superheroes Wear Capes This is a children’s book designed to teach African-American students the opportunities available to them in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. This inspiring book combines positive images of African Americans engaging in exciting careers with a powerful message of how these individuals help others in their daily life.
6. Kuumba / Creativity - Ada Twist's Big Project Book for Stellar Scientists Young scientists will have the opportunity to explore all of Ada’s favorite sciences— from botany to astronomy to chemistry, and everything in between. They’ll do experiments, follow the scientific method, and learn to look more closely at the world around them.
7. Imani / Faith - African American Leaders coloring book Learn about those that came before us. African American Leaders celebrates the diversity, history, and accomplishments of African Americans in North America
To learn more about Kwanzaa, take a listen to the audiobook "Seven Candles for Kwanzaa". Narrated by the amazing Alfre Woodard.
Using the Nguzo Saba, or "seven principles" of Kwanzaa, the author Angela Shelf Medearis has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community.
A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.