The Global Lessons of an American Holiday – Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a bonus winter holiday which provides yet another meaningful opportunity to learn about and celebrate culture with my global kids.

This week, my boys learned that Kwanzaa is an American-born celebration of African-American culture, heritage and community, and is observed mainly in the U.S, but throughout the world, for the week between 26th December and 1st January each year.

Established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies at California State University, this celebration represents many universal principles that renew, unite and strengthen the human spirit within all of us.

These global lessons of Kwanzaa, which truly transcend cultures throughout the world, are described here in the words of Kwanzaa creator, Dr. Karenga:

Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture with each providing a context and commitment of common ground, cooperative practice and shared good.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of the family which first forms us, names, nurtures and sustains us, and teaches us upright and uplifting ways to understand and assert our- selves in the world.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of the community which calls us into being as a people, serves as the source and center of our strivings and struggles together to live good and meaningful lives, create, advance and sustain culture, and play the rightful role that our history, shared hope and dedication to the good demand of us.

And Kwanzaa is a celebration of the culture that brought humanity and human civilization into being, formed the first disciplines of human knowledge, gave deep spiritual and ethical insight and grounding to our ancestors and the world, and offers us valuable and timeless insights to engage the critical issues of our time.

What Kids Should Know About Kwanzaa:

The holiday was conceived in an effort to help African Americans remember and celebrate their heritage.

The word “Kwanzaa” is derived from the Swahili language and means “first fruits” which has its roots in ancient African harvest celebrations.

The holiday is not a religious one.  People of many different religions celebrate this event.

Each of the seven days is dedicated to one of “The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa”, which are as follows:

1. Umoja (oo-MOH-jah): Unity – To be as one with family and community;

2. Kujichagulia (koo-jee-chah-goo-LEE-ah): Self-Determination – To be responsible for ourselves. To be in control of our own destiny;

3.Ujima (oo-JEE-mah): Collective Work and Responsibility – To work together to help one another for the greater good of the community;

4. Ujamaa (oo-jah-MAH): Collective Economics – To build, maintain, and support businesses within the community, and to set and meet common goals through mutual support;

5. Nia (NEE-ah): Purpose – To be responsible and to set personal goals that will benefit the community as a whole;

6. Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah): Creativity – To support use of creativity and imagination to improve the vibrance and strength of the community;

7. Imani (ee-MAH-nee): Faith – To have faith in the strength of the community, our families, and ourselves to strive towards  the goal of  reaching a higher level of existence for humankind.

Traditionally, during the Kwanzaa celebration, one candle is lit each day in recognition of each principle.  The candles are displayed in a special holder called a kinara.

The kinara candle colors are black, red and green, which represent peoples around the world of African decent, their struggles and their hopes for the future, respectively.

Families celebrating Kwanzaa plan activities and discussion around the principle honored that day.

Children are encouraged to relate each principle to their own life and experiences.


The Official Kwanzaa Websitecontains lots of information about the celebration including the Seven Principles, the history and the symbols.  In addition, there is a new message posted every year from the founder, Dr Karenga. Here is his 2010 installment.

I found this Sesame Street video which can be used to introduce young children to Kwanzaa.  It features a cute little boy describing how his family celebrates the holiday.

Younger kids canmake fun crafts representing the symbols of the celebration.  We made this simple kinara out of paper towel rolls, glue, paint & tissue paper.

Here is another great kinara craft using handprints.

Of course, there are many fun and informative children’s books about Kwanzaa.

I hope you are enjoying your winter holidays!



My name is Jill and I am a thirty-something part-time attorney, and full-time mother of two wonderful and delightfully engaging little boys, ages 6 and 4. Over 6 years ago, I was a full-time attorney and very much enjoyed the working world with all of its perks and pleasures. Then, came baby. Never, before giving birth, had I even considered tossing aside the benefits of my hard-earned law degree and employment status for a life strictly defined by feeding intervals, diaper inspections, and the continual and mesmerizing exchange of gazes and coos with my new little one. Seeing and holding my new baby for the first time triggered my nurture and protect mode, and it has been in full force ever since. I began my incredibly exhausting, yet amazingly gratifying parenting journey that day, and haven’t looked back. Now with two little ones, I feel very thankful for every moment I get to share with my boys and my husband as we take this voyage through life together. My passion is parenting and my parenting philosophy is based upon the commitment to raise my children in ways which encourage an appreciation of the world as a whole, a genuine sense of compassion, and an ongoing feeling of gratitude. I strive to bestow upon them the opportunity of a multi-lingual education, and to expose them to diverse cultural experiences which they can appreciate and enjoy. I believe that this will enhance their brain development, as well as encourage a cultural sensitivity and the insight necessary to be well-adapted to, and to thrive in the ever-increasing globally connected society in which we live. Although my husband and I no longer travel to the extent we did before we had children, and thus far have not had the opportunity to travel with our kids outside the U.S., we strive to create for them global adventures and discoveries about the world through cultural studies, and by the exploration of diverse food, music and festivals. Speaking of the hubby, he is the most well-mannered person I’ve ever met, (thank you, dear mom-in-law), a fantastic father, and a passionate foodie with mad skills in the kitchen. I am quite proud to announce that he is currently working with partners to develop a brand new and exciting Mediterranean-themed restaurant concept. I can’t wait to blog about the delicious details! The idea for this blog was primarily conceived through many chats with good friend and like-minded mom, Kim, (see Kim’s about me page). We have similar parenting philosophies and have joined forces to launch this blog and produce its content. Kim will be blogging from a small village in France where she and her family have recently settled. I will be blogging from my home in Tampa, Florida. Our goal is to stay in close contact with each other and to connect with others around the world by sharing ideas, stories, photos and videos about raising, healthy, happy, globally-enlightened children. My little ones are best buddies with Kim’s five-year-old son and they look forward to keeping in close contact with Kim and her boy on their adventure in France. Our blog will provide the children with many opportunities to share and compare their life experiences from their perspectives in two different parts of the world. They are excited to exchange stories on Skype and email about school, local museums, food, theme parks, and much more! For me, this blog will serve as an exercise in creativity and an invaluable opportunity to challenge myself, daily, to become more open-minded, and to set a great example as a parent by helping my children develop a true feeling of appreciation and optimism about the global community in which they live. It should be noted that I am a research junkie. Always an inquisitive individual, I honed my research skills in law school. Now, with the answer to virtually every conceivable question at my finger tips, I get online every day to attempt to quench my insatiable thirst for knowledge. This blog will enable me to pass along any and all information which I find valuable in terms of parenting, education and global issues. I plan to tweet about these tidbits of significant information upon which I stumble, so please follow us Twitter! We encourage readers to share their stories and photos and look forward to hearing about global parenting experiences from around the world. Please click on our share your story page and connect with us! Jill
This entry was posted in Crafts, Global Education, Good Reads, Holidays, Uncategorized, World Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Global Lessons of an American Holiday – Kwanzaa

  1. Amanda says:

    Just stopping by to let you know that I have featured your project on Fun Family Crafts! You can see it here

    If you have other kid friendly crafts, I’d love it if you would submit them :) If you would like to display a featured button on your site, you can grab one from the right side bar of your post above.

  2. Jill says:

    Thank you Amanda! I’ve added the button, and I will submit some kid-friendly crafts in the near future! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Pingback: Kwanzaa Crafts and Recipes | Fun Family Crafts

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