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 Website contains 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 can make 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!