Kwanzaa – The Meaning and Ways to Celebrate. December 26-January 1

Kwanzaa - The Meaning and Ways to Celebrate

In 1966, Maulana Ron Karenga established Kwanzaa, a non-religious African-American and Pan-African holiday observed from December 26 to January 1. Karenga aimed to provide the Black community with an opportunity to celebrate its identity and history. Kwanzaa emphasizes community through the seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. These principles, expressed in Swahili, guide the celebration.

  1. Umoja – Striving for and maintaining unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  2. Kuijchaguila – Defining and naming ourselves, as well as creating and speaking for ourselves.
  3. Ujima – Building and maintaining our community together, addressing each other’s problems collectively.
  4. Ujamaa – Building and maintaining our own stores, shops, and businesses to prosper together.
  5. Nia – Making our collective vocation the building and development of our community to restore traditional greatness.
  6. Kuumba – Doing as much as we can, in our own way, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  7. Imani – Believing wholeheartedly in our people, parents, teachers, leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa involves seven candles representing these principles— three red for the struggles , three green for the future and hope, and one black for the people.

Celebrating Kwanzaa involves using the principles as a guide for gift-giving, creating homemade gifts, or supporting Black-owned businesses . Events like Kwanzaa at Midtown Global Market on December 26 and an array of Kwanzaa books for children contribute to the festivities. While there may be fewer Kwanzaa-oriented movies, “The Black Candle” is a documentary available online, and “Holiday Heritage” is a recent Hallmark movie that includes both Christmas and Kwanzaa themes.

Additional Resources

Black owned business guides from Meet Minneapolis and Visit St. Paul.

Kwanzaa from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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