Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family and Heritage

Kwanzaa, celebrated between December 26 and January 1, is a time for families in the African-American community to come together and enjoy their heritage. Unlike many holidays, Kwanzaa was created by one person, Maulana Karenga, in 1966. He named the celebration Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits" in Swahili.

Kwanzaa has several unique traditions. People place candles in a holder called a kinara. One candle is lit for each night of Kwanzaa, and these candles have special meanings. Each candle represents a lesson: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), cooperation (ujima), sharing (ujamma), creativity (kuumba), purpose (nia), and faith (imani). The name for all the lessons together is Nguzo Saba.

Black, red and green are the traditional colors of Kwanzaa. Family and friends gather together on the last night of Kwanzaa for an African-style meal called karamu when gifts may be exchanged.

You can read more about this holiday in Kwanzaa Karamu, by April A. Brady, which includes fantastic recipes. Add a little rhythm to your celebrations with the CD, Kwanzaa Music, also available at the CRRL.

You may also wish to share the tale, Seven Spools of Thread, by Angela Medearis. When they are given the seemingly impossible task of turning thread into gold, the seven Ashanti brothers put aside their differences, learn to get along, and embody the principles of Kwanzaa. Includes information on Kwanzaa, West African cloth weaving, and instructions for making a belt.

More information about this holiday can be found on the Web:

DLTK's Kwanzaa Crafts and Children's Activities
Fun crafts and recipe ideas.

Everything About Kwanzaa
Explanations of the seven guiding principles and how to celebrate.

CRRL owns a number of Kwanzaa resources for young audiences:

CRRL Kids: Celebrate Kwanzaa!

Celebrate Kwanzaa with great food, crafts, and stories - including a streaming video.

This easier-reading book tells about several holidays that are often celebrated in African-American communities, including Kwanzaa.

Crafts that match the significance of the days of Kwanzaa. Has step-by-step directions. A trip to the craft store might be needed for some projects.

A look at how one family celebrates Kwanzaa. Includes sidebars for more information and quotes from famous African Americans.

An introduction to Kwanzaa that includes recipes and crafts.

Each letter of the alphabet is used as a springboard to teach children something about Kwanzaa.

Kids can learn the basics of Kwanzaa and its customs in this book.

Warm and vibrant pictures accompany text that explains how Kwanzaa may be celebrated and the meanings to many of its words and concepts.

Designed for young readers and listeners, this introduction to the holiday's customs is part of the Rookie Read-About Holidays series.

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