The history of kwanzaa

Where and when did Kwanzaa originate ?



Kwanzaa A non religious holiday an African-American celebration of life. Kwanzaa has become very popular More than 20 million people celebrate in the United States, Canada, England and the Caribbean. Kwanzaa celebrates African heritage, pride, community, family and culture.

The word Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase ” matunda ya KWANZA ” which means “ first fruits of the harvest‚ ” .
Kwanzaa is organized around fundamental activities common to the ” matunda ya KWANZA ” first fruits African harvest celebrations that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years.

What is Kwanzaa and why is it celebrated ?

The seven day festival starts the day after Christmas ( ie 26th December) and finishes on New year’s day (1st of January). Inspired by the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s and based on ancient African since its creation.

  • the ingathering of family, friends, and community;
  • reverence for the creator and creation ( including thanksgiving and recommitment to respect the environment and heal the world);
  • remembering the past ( honouring ancestors, learning lessons and emulating achievements of African history);
  • recommitment to the highest cultural ideals of the African community ( for example, truth, justice and respect for people and nature.);
  • celebration of the “good of life” (for example, life, struggle, achievement, family, community, and culture.)

Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal.

On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed.
The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among Africans at home and abroad. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.


It started with the lighting of the Kinara and a presentation from local youth groups. Organizers explained how Kwanzaa celebrates the contributions of descendants of Africans across the world, and how its values are deeply rooted in family and community.

“Insight into what our ancestors were doing previously, and to continue to tradition on that preserves their lifestyle, their cultures for years to come,” said Letia Taylor with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. Archonettes. “That should be something that is done 365. You can’t just exist in the world, you have to have a sense of purpose.”

National financial strategist Shelly Lombard was the keynote speaker, and drove home that message of purpose with advice for making the most of the new year ahead.

Seven Principles or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created 1965 by
Dr. Maulana Karenga.

Karenga transferred to UCLA, earning a B.A. (cum laude) (1963) and M.A. (1964) in political science with a specialization in African Studies. After a year of working on his doctorate, he left UCLA to work in the Black Freedom Movement. At UCLA he had begun to develop a philosophy of radical cultural and social change called Kawaida, which embraces some of the essential teachings of major activist intellectuals he studied, including Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Sékou Touré, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon, and Amílcar Cabral.

Using his expansive knowledge of African culture and languages, Karenga, in 1965, also developed the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles), as a key value system for Black life and struggle, and in 1966, created the African American and pan-African holiday, Kwanzaa, a seven-day holiday (26 December—1 January) which celebrates family, community and culture. Karenga and Us have also played a major role in Black intellectual and political culture since the 1960’s, including the Movements of Black Power, Black Arts, Black Studies, Black Students, ancient Egyptian studies, reparations, and the Million Man March/Day of Absence, for which Karenga wrote the Mission Statement.

Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.

1. Unity : Umoja

To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

2. self determination : Kujichagulia

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

3. Collective Work and Responsibility : Ujima

To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers and sisters problems our problems and to solve them together.

4. Cooperative Economics : Ujamaa

To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

5. Purpose : Nia

To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

6. Creativity : Kuumba

To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

7. Faith : Imani

To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.