Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor in the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He was an author, scholar and activist who saw a need to preserve and promote African American culture.
No, it is a cultural celebration-- Africans and African Americans of all faiths come together to celebrate Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is not an alternative to Christmas, Hanukkah or any other religious holiday. It creates a common ground to honor and rejoice in African culture.
The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the Swahili phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Since "kwanza" has only six letters, an extra "a" was added to make it seven, one for each principle.
The basis of Kwanzaa practice is to reinforce the seven principles of African culture. These values all promote family and culture among Africans and African Americans. They are seen as the foundation and support of the community.
Kwanzaa is celebrated using a Kinara, which holds seven candles to signify the principles. The candles are red, black and green: black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope. People also celebrate using traditional African fabrics and art.
Here are the seven principles of Kwanzaa:
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
Gifts to children usually include a book and a symbol of African heritage. The book encourages the African value of learning that has been around since ancient Egypt.
Anybody can hold a Kwanzaa celebration, you don't have to be a priest or community leader. You can have your own, as long as you stay true to the African values and symbols of the holiday.