What Is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is an African-American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions of Africans across the globe.  It is a non-religious cultural holiday, observed by Africans of all faiths, united by a rich African heritage which they share. Kwanzaa is founded on African history, values, culture, family and community.

When Is Kwanzaa?

It is celebrated 26 December – 1 January each year

How did Kwanzaa start?

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by DR. MAULANA KARENGA, a professor of Africana Studies at California State University, author and scholar-activist. Kwanzaa’s overtones of unity and self-determination is a reflection of the Black Freedom Movement at that time. The Organisation “Us” is the founding organisation of Kwanzaa and the authoritative keeper of its tradition.

What does the word Kwanzaa mean?

The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. The first-fruits or first harvest celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia. They took place in large ancient African civilizations across Zulu empires, Swaziland kingdoms, Ashantiland and Yorubaland and in smaller societies and groups such as the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu as well as in all of south-east Africa.

Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations:-

1) a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them; 

2) a time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation; 

3) a time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honour of its models of human excellence, our ancestors; 

4) a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural thought and practice; 

5) a time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.

Kwanzaa reinforces communitarian African values known as the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles):

Adapted from Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture (2008), University of Sankore Press

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