Kwanzaa, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, is a celebration of family, community and culture. It was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African roots and heritage. The secular holiday is modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa, but people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are welcome to celebrate. This seven-day celebration traditionally involves songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, and a large traditional meal. On each night, a candle is lit to observe the Luzon saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. These include Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
In the United States, Kwanzaa begins on December 26 and ends on January 1.
Kwanzaa for Beginners
If you’d like to learn more about this holiday, check out the resources available from our sister sites and be sure to share what you learn with your family and friends too!
Good food is a highlight of Kwanzaa, and catfish, collards and macaroni and cheese are all staples that might be seen on the dinner table. Any of these 28 recipe ideas will be sure to please a crowd.
For even more recipes, check out this extensive list of traditional Kwanzaa dishes, as well as cookbook inspiration.
Get your kids into the holiday spirit by making a folded paper Kwanzaa Kinara craft. The Kinara is a holder for the Mishumaa Saba (seven candles). Each candle represents one of the seven principles, so you and your child can discuss one principle each night.
If the Kinara craft is too intricate, the youngest of crafters might enjoy making this Kwanzaa paper chain.
The best way to immerse your family in the history of Kwanzaa is to read about it. My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz is a picture book that introduces the basic concepts and symbols of the holiday, and it’s the perfect place to start.
Other books for young readers include:
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington: In this book, Granna Rabbit is too sick to prepare the final festive meal, so Li’l Rabbit goes on a quest to help and in turn embodies the spirit of the holiday.
The Sound of Kwanzaa by Dimitrea Tokunbo: This book defines the Swahili words that make up the seven principles of Kwanzaa, and includes bright illustrations that your little one will love.
Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford: This book features a girl hoping her brother will make it home in time for the holiday.
Whether you are celebrating for the first time or have celebrated for years, learning more about Kwanzaa will only help enrich your experience as you spend seven days celebrating African American heritage.