Kwanzaa is not a religious or a
political holiday. Kwanzaa is a reflective holiday, introduced
in the mid-1960's in the U.S. during the Civil Rights Movement. It is a
time when African-Americans celebrate their African heritage.
Kwanzaa was created by a
teacher, Maulana Karenga, Ph.D., chair and professor of African-American
Studies at the California State University at Long Beach. He created this
holiday in an effort to pull the African-American community together in
pride and unity. The reflective nature of Kwanzaa is based on ideas
borrowed from an ancient African Swahili seven-day-long harvest celebration.
Karenga took some old ideas, and added some new ideas, and came up with
the incredibly neat celebration called Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa begins each year on
December 26 and lasts through the first day in January. The symbols of
Kwanzaa are African harvest symbols, like ears of dried corn and
colorfully woven tablecloths. People decorate their homes for
An important symbol is the wooden candlestick. This candlestick
holds 7 candles in a row. The center candle is black, to signify unity.
There are 3 red candles on one side, and 3 green candles on the other.
One: The black candle is lit. This is a day of togetherness,
The family gathers and shares how they feel about things happening in
their lives, and their feelings about each other. Many problems are
cleared up during this day, simply by talking about them. The black
candle signifies unity.
Two: A red candle is lit. This is a day
of togetherness, sharing traditions.
Some people teach others how to braid hair. Other might teach how to play
an African drum. Still others might share an African recipe.
Three: A green candle is lit. This is day of
togetherness, sharing a common goal.
Everyone in the family works together to
get a chore done - perhaps paint a fence or clean out the garage. What's
important is that everyone works together to get the job done.
Four: A red candle is lit. This is a day of
togetherness, sharing a family gift.
All year long, people save their pennies. At Kwanzaa, they buy one gift
that the whole family can enjoy. In years to come, every time any in the
family sees this item, they will remember the family Kwanzaa. It can
be anything, from a new staircase to a tiny cookie cutter.
Five: A green candle is lit. This is a day of
togetherness, sharing dreams and hopes. This
is an especially good day to ask your children, "What do wish to
accomplish in the new year?"
Six: A red candle is lit. This is a day of
togetherness, sharing creativity.
First, everyone in the family creates something - a poem, a story, a
dance, a painting. In the early evening, the family gathers. Each family
member shares what they have created.
Seven: A green candle is lit. This is a day
of togetherness, sharing a feast.
Baked ham, roasted yams, collard greens, thick bread - it is a wonderful
And that is Kwanzaa. You can
see why it is such a popular holiday!
Story of Kwanzaa
Games & Activities for Kids