The Festival of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a seven-day festival celebrating the African-American people, their culture, and their history. It is a time of celebration, community gathering, and reflection. Kwanzaa begins on Dec. 26, the day after Christmas, and continues until New Year’s Day, Jan. 1.

Each evening a family member, usually the youngest child, lights candles in a special candleholder (kinara) and discusses one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. These are the foundation of Kwanzaa.

On the sixth day, which falls on New Year’s Eve, family and friends get together to enjoy a large feast and to celebrate their history, culture, and the upcoming new year.

The holiday of Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, during the period of US history in which African-Americans were involved in struggles for their civil rights. Karenga wanted to create a holiday that would bring African-Americans together in celebration of their black culture. He was inspired by the “first fruit” or harvest festivals that were celebrated throughout Africa.

The dates of the celebration were chosen to correspond to the end of the year celebrations in America. Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas, to bypass the commercial buying period but to take advantage of the seasonal holiday spirit.

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