Kwanzaa Traditions

What is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African-American culture that is held on a fixed date every year from December 26th to January 1st. The event culminates in a feast and gift-giving. It was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga. Unlike other seasonal celebrations, Kwanzaa is not specifically religious in it’s origins. Rather, it’s meant to appeal to the humanity of those celebrating. It encourages positive social values and cooperation.

Kwanzaa celebratory symbols include a mat on which a ‘kinara’ is placed. The kinara has room for seven candles which each represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa. There are also traditional garments worn as well as gifts exchanged and symbolic meals consumed.

family celebrating kwanzaa

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa
Each day of the celebration symbolizes one of the principles of Kwanzaa. They are:
Umoja (unity)- To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race

Kujichagulia (self-determination)- To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves

Ujima (collective work and responsibility)- To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together

Ujamaa (cooperative economics)- To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together

Nia (purpose)- To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness

Kuumba (creativity)- To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it

Imani (faith)- To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle