Kwanzaa History and Traditions

The Kwanzaa Holiday

The Kwanzaa Holiday: A Cultural Celebration

Unlike Christmas and Hanukkah, the Kwanzaa holiday is not a religious celebration. Kwanzaa was created as a means of identifying and affirming cultural traditions and principles within the African-American community. Celebrated for seven days, from December 26 through January 1, Kwanzaa is a gathering of friends and family where stories, customs, meals and decorations are shared in honor of a common history and shared future. Use The Kwanzaa Holiday Web Guide to learn about the founding of Kwanzaa and how you can celebrate.

Kwanzaa History and Traditions

Because Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, there are many opportunities for creating and fostering new Kwanzaa traditions. The following sites explain Kwanzaa history, including why it was created, the basic principles that go into the seven days of celebration and how you can customize your own Kwanzaa celebration.

Insights for Kwanzaa History and Traditions

  • Kwanzaa means “first fruits” in Swahili, the most widely spoken African language. Its name is meant to draw together all African people under the common celebration of the harvest.
  • If you want to learn more about the history and full celebration of Kwanzaa, "The Complete Kwanzaa: Celebrating Our Cultural Harvest" by D. Winbush Riley offers a thorough background .

Top Sites for Kwanzaa History and Traditions

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Kwanzaa Celebrations

This section focuses on the specific traditions associated with participating in, or hosting, a Kwanzaa celebration, including details like the Karamu feast and the Kinara, the Kwanzaa candleholder.

Insights for Kwanzaa Celebrations

  • If you want to learn more about how Kwanzaa is celebrated, read "Celebrating Kwanzaa" by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith.
  • The more people involved in your Kwanzaa celebration, the better—this holiday honors community.

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Kwanzaa Food and Recipes

Food plays a central role in the Kwanzaa celebration, particularly at the Karamu feast during the final stage of the celebration. Eating foods traditional in African and African-American homes is an important part of reinforcing the cultural aspect of this holiday. Below you'll find Kwanzaa food suggestions and recipes, as well as menus for your Kwanzaa celebration.

Insights for Kwanzaa Food and Recipes

  • Make a bookmark folder for the recipes you find in the sites below. You’ll be able to track all of your favorite dishes, and refer back to them quickly if they’re all in one place.

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Kwanzaa Decorations

Bring Kwanzaa symbols into your home while honoring the sixth principle of Kwanzaa: Kuumba, or creativity. During Kwanzaa, individuals are encouraged to minimize commercialism and foster self-sufficiency and imagination. The sites below offer suggestions and instructions for Kwanzaa decorations, crafts, cards and Kwanzaa gifts.

Insights for Kwanzaa Decorations

  • Before you buy supplies, see what you have at home. A little bit of red and green paint can go a long way in creating decorations out of items you already have.
  • Add the craft links you like together with the recipe links you found earlier, and make a bookmark folder called “Kwanzaa.” You’ll be able to find your favorite sites year after year, and add new ones as they come along.

Top Sites for Kwanzaa Decorations

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