What can you tell me about Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, during the height of the Black Freedom Movement. First celebrated at the end of 1966, Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration (from December 26 to January 1) of African American culture and heritage. Because it is a cultural celebration, and not a religious one, Kwanzaa is often celebrated in addition to other religious holidays.

One of the main symbols of Kwanzaa is the kinara, a traditional candleholder that is symbolic of African roots and that holds the Mishumaa Saba, or seven candles. The candles come in three colors, the colors of Kwanzaa: black (for the people), red (for their struggle), and green (for their future). On each day of Kwanzaa, another candle is lit as African Americans dedicate each day to one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa:

Day

Principle

What It Means

Candle Color

1

Umoja (the center candle)

Unity

Black

2

Kujichagulia

Self-determination

Red

3

Ujamaa

Cooperative economics

Red

4

Kuumba

Creativity

Red

5

Ujima

Collective work and responsibility

Green

6

Nia

Purpose

Green

7

Imani

Faith

Green



The word Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits of the harvest" in Swahili, the mostly widely spoken language in Africa. The traditional greeting during Kwanzaa is also in Swahili. One asks "Habari gani?" — meaning "What's the news?" — and the correct answer is the name of the principle (umoji, kujichagulia, and so on) being celebrated on that day. "Joyous Kwanzaa" is also a common and acceptable greeting.

For more information, check out The Official Kwanzaa Web Site.