How to Celebrate Kwanzaa

Multicultural Holidays Series

This article is part of our Multicultural Holidays series.  You can submit your own story for publishing on Multicultural Familia via our submissions page here.

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Image: Flickr / soulchristmas

How to Celebrate Kwanzaa – December 26 – January 1

Today begins the week-long celebration of Kwanzaa!  The cultural holiday, created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, was established as the first African American Holiday.  The holiday has strong ties to the American Civil Rights Movement and relies on a set of principles, symbols and sentiments that are centered around the idea that positive and thoughtful actions can empower black families and counter negative perceptions in the media and in their communities that are often projected onto African Americans.  Since Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday and not based upon religious beliefs, it is often celebrated alongside Christmas, New Year’s and other religious holidays.

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

from Wikipedia:

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves stand up.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): 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.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa


  • Fruits for our good works
  • A mat for the foundation of traditions we stand on
  • Seven candles: three red, three green, and one black, each representing a Kwanzaa principle
  • A candle holder (kinara) that represents Africa
  • A single cup to drink from for unity
  • Ears of corn for each child in the family
  • Gifts to reward others

Read more about How to Celebrate Kwanzaa.



  1. Anonymous says

    Happy Kwanzaa!  Thanks for sharing about the 7 principles.  Those are great principles to live by EVERY day! :)  

  2. says

    Kwanzaa is a great holiday with great principles. I've learned a lot about it over the years. It's important for others should learn about it as well. Thanks for the refresher!