Kwanzaa is a modern holiday with deep roots in African heritage and tradition.
It was in 1966 when Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, decided to find way to strenghten the bonds of the African-American community.
He incorporated several customs that communities in Africa have used to celebrate the traditional harvest, and called the new holiday Kwanzaa after the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili.
In addition to family fun and feasting, an important part of Kwanzaa is the candle-lighting ceremony, with one candle lit each evening to highlight the 7 principles of Kwanzaa that surround the celebration. These encompass unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
Today, Kwanzaa is celebrated on the day after Christmas, on December 26, and continues until January 1.
The big holiday feast, called Karamu, is celebrated on December 31 with recipes ranging from old family favorites like Cajun catfish and classic Southern sweet potato pie to Caribbean jerk chicken, or African creole.
A US stamp designed
Synthia Saint James.
DID YOU KNOW? Kwanzaa fun facts
• Kwanzaa is celebrated by an estimated 20 million people, and growing. It is mainly observed in the US, but in recent years the celebration has also spread to Canada, the Caribbean, as well as London, Paris, and other European capital cities.
• Established in 1966, Kwanza celebrated its 50th Birthday in 2016.
• The first US postage stamp to commemorate Kwanzaa was issued in 1997 with five more designs released since then.
• Celebrities who have been known to celebrate Kwanzaa every year include Oprah, the late poet Maya Angelou, and actress Angelina Jolie who celebrates the holiday with her children.
The Official Kwanzaa Web Site - Dr. Maulana Karenga, Creator of Kwanzaa, sanctions this site as the place to learn about the purpose of this African American and Pan-African holiday.
- The celebration of Kwanzaa includes corn and fruits as symbols, but the celebration is not confined to these foods. Cultural And comfort foods are welcome gifts to share with family and friends during the holiday. Try these recipes for your Kwanzaa feast.