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8 Facts About Kwanzaa You Need to Know

Kwanzaa has been observed by Africans around the globe for 50 years, the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Here are some amazing Facts About Kwanzaa for you to explore!

The Black Power movement of the 1960s brought forth many young African Americans. They cherish Kwanzaa and continue to practice it.

Although many younger Black Americans are open to Kwanzaa’s seven principles and values, they still have issues with its creator. These are some facts about Kwanzaa.

Facts About Kwanzaa

1. Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday but a cultural celebration.

Kwanzaa is when gifts are given, but there are no deities involved. Kwanzaa, instead, is a seven-day ritual that welcomes the first harvests into the home for the new year. This observance is about community and not relying on any higher power. Kwanzaa is observed from December 26 through January 1. Kwanzaa means ” first” in Swahili. It was established by Dr. Maulana Karaga, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, during the peak of the Black Nationalist movement.

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2. Seven principles represent Kwanzaa.

According to the University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center, Karenga created the seven principles of Kwanzaa (also known as Nguza Saba) to help Black Americans connect to their African roots. She encouraged the community to recognize and respect traditional African family values. These concepts are (in English or Swahili).

  • Unity ( Umoja).
  • Self-determination (Kujichagulia)
  • Ujima – Collective work and accountability
  • Cooperative economics (Ujamaa)
  • Purpose ( a).
  • Creativity ( Kuumba).
  • Faith ( Imani).

3. Kwanzaa also includes cultural and historical African symbols.

Crops like corn ( may), for example, recall Black people’s connections to agriculture and collective labor. The basis of self-actualization is the Kwanzaa Mat ( Makka). The Kinara contains seven red candles, three green candles, and one black candle. Its colors are symbolic of the Black liberation movement. Gifts ( Zawadi ) are a symbol of the parent-child bond. To pour libation offerings to mothers and forefathers, the unity ( Umoja ) cup is used.

4. Kwanzaa, a holiday that is American-invented but inspired by Africa, is known as Kwanzaa.

Today’s Generation Zers and Millennials from African America know very little about Kwanzaa and have never been to a Kwanzaa party. Kwanzaa is a symbol of the pride that Black Baby Boomers felt when they first embraced Pan-Africanism and social activism during turbulent times like the 1965 Watts Riots.

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5. A book and a website are available for Kwanzaa celebrations.

Kwanzaa was traditionally celebrated at home, school, and other larger venues that showcased African music and dancers. Families light one candle every day and discuss the principles.

Seba Chimbuko Tmbo, the associate director of the African American Cultural Center Los Angeles, suggests that families who are just starting to practice Kwanzaa would benefit from reading Dr. Karenga’s Kwanzaa, A Celebration of Family and Community and Culture is a book that will help families to understand the original vision and values and avoid falling for the fake information about Kwanzaa found online. The official Kwanzaa website is another reliable source for new Kwanzaa celebrants.

6. Kwanzaa principles can be applied throughout the year.

Seba Tembo says that millions of Africans observe the Nguzo Saba. These concepts require celebrants to embody the best of what it is to be African and human in this world, from Umoja to Imani. Tembo tells Mental Floss that Kwanzaa principles can be adhered to throughout the year. “We can embrace them in our hearts [and] minds and practice using them as a guide for what we think and feel about ourselves and our lives and the work and struggle we wage to achieve justice, freedom, and good in this world.”

7. Kwanzaa is a holiday that many people, even those not of African descent, can celebrate.

Kwanzaa encourages everyone to live by the principles that emphasize quality human relationships, strong ties within families and communities, and putting the whole community before the individual.

Tembo states that Kwanzaa is a celebration of African people, our history, family, culture, and lives, our struggle for freedom and to be ourselves, and the opportunity to increase and bring good into the world. Kwanzaa is a concept that attracts people outside the African American community. They must acknowledge the intellectual, emotional, and psychological unity of African people.

8. Dr. Maulana Karaga, the Kwanzaa founder, is a source of controversy and backlash.

Recent articles on Kwanzaa focussed on Dr. Karenga’s criminal history. According to testimony on May 14, 1971, Los Angeles Times, Karenga was accused, not long after the celebration’s foundation, of torturing and beating women he believed were trying to poison him. Karenga claimed innocence but was convicted of felony assault and false imprisonment. He was sentenced to four years in prison. After his release, Karenga left the Black Nationalist movement and focused more on Kwanzaa’s accessibility to all African Americans.

Even though they may agree with Kwanzaa’s principles, some people still view Karenga’s conviction almost 50 years ago as too horrible to consider celebrating Kwanzaa.

Shreya is a young mind who is always in search of creativity, be it in work or living a life. She's a keen observer who loves to pen down her thoughts on anything and everything. With a factful mind, she's here sharing some with you!


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