Kwanzaa, meaning 'the first fruits, was developed in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. It gives African Americans a holiday of their own during the winter months while preserving, revitalizing, and promoting African American culture. It focuses on seven principles with emphasis on the unity of the black family. These principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. This holiday is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st.
- On each of the seven days of Kwanzaa, greetings are exchanged in Swahili. The question, 'Habari gani?' is asked and each day the principle for that day is the answer. For example, the first day's answer would be 'Umoja' or unity.
- Gifts are given to children and include a book and a heritage symbol.
- The colors of Kwanzaa are red, black, and green.
- Seven candles in a Kinara are lit, one for each day of the holiday. One is black and represents the people. This candle is lit fist. Three red candles are placed to the left of the black candle representing the struggle for African Americans. Three green candles are placed to the right of the black candle representing the future and hope. These candles are lit from left to right, one for each day.
Ideas for Presentation
- Have students discuss each of the seven principles and why they are important.
- Students can discuss the necessity of holidays in making up group identities.
- Speakers can come in to discuss Kwanzaa and how it is celebrated.
- Students can create a traditional Kwanzaa celebration in the classroom.
- The Civil Rights movement can be discussed in the context of the Kwanzaa celebration.
Click here for more Kwanzaa resources.
I hope that this information is useful in preparing your own 'winter solstice' festival or in simply presenting students with information about different cultures. I wish everyone happy holidays!