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 - Something, Someday - Sometimes the world feels broken. And problems seem too big to fix. But somehow, we all have the power to make a difference. With a little faith, and maybe the help of a friend, together we can find beauty and create change. With intimate and inspiring text and powerfully stunning illustrations, Something, Someday reveals how even the smallest gesture can have a lasting impact.
2. Kujichagulia / Self-Determination - Planting Peace: The Story of Wangari Maathai - This picture book tells the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, women's rights activist and one of the first environmental warriors. Wangari began the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the 1960s, which focused on planting trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. She inspired thousands across Africa to plant 30 million trees in 30 years and was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
3. Ujima / Collective Work and Responsibility - Take Back the Block - Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That--and hanging out with the crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games--is what Wes wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to. But when a powerful real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived in his whole life, everything changes. The grown-ups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they're doing is arguing. Even Wes's best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn't about to give up the only home he's ever known without a fight. He's always been good at puzzles, and he knows there must be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it before it's too late? Chrystal D. Giles's timely debut explores community, social justice, family, and friendship, and asks what it means to belong--to a place and a movement--and to fight for a cause that you believe in.
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 - Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman The luminous poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a shipwrecked moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, these poems shine a light on a moment of reckoning and reveal that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.
6. Kuumba / Creativity - The Artivist - "They say I'm an artist. They say I'm an activist." When a young boy realizes the scope of inequities in the wider world, he's seized with the urge to do more. He decides to bring together the different parts of himself--the artist and the activist--to become. . . an Artivist. After his mural goes viral, he sets out to change the world one painting at a time. With inspiring text and stunning illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, The Artivist is a call to action for young readers to point out injustice in their lives and try to heal the broken bones of the world through their art.
7. Imani / Faith - When Daddy Prays - In this collection of new poems by Nikki Grimes, a child learns about prayer from his father, whose prayers carry the family through each day -- no matter what the circumstances. Nikki Grimes believes that spirituality and prayer are signs of true strength and power. When Daddy Prays celebrates fathers who help their children see this. Nikki writes, "In my view there is no more powerful image than that of a strong man bowing before God." And illustrator Tim Ladwig has created remarkable images, rich with tenderness and touches of affectionate humor, to enhance and complete this exceptional book.
A kid-friendly guide to the history and customs of Kwanzaa.This informative and fun guide to the holiday of Kwanzaa by author Angela Shelf Medearis provides information about parties, recipes for African-inspired dishes, instructions for craft projects, and brief biographies of individuals who are connected to the holiday and its history.
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.
From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Ibi Zoboi comes her debut picture book--a tour de force that uses the principles of Kwanzaa to talk about the history of African Americans. This lyrical, powerful tribute is sumptuously illustrated by New Yorker artist and rising star Loveis Wise.
Activities at the end of the book include making your own cow-tail switch and baking benne cakes.
An inclusive rhyming story celebrating the joys of Christmas and Kwanzaa! Soulful holidays give readers a sense of the soulful nature of both Christmas and Kwanzaa in a way that honors the Black and African American experience.