Kwanzaa is an African American holiday tradition that was founded in New York City in 1966. It celebrates seven principles of our communal African heritage from December 26 to New Year’s Day.
Dec 26, 2021 – Jan 1, 2022
The Meaning of January 1
Kwanzaa ends on January 1, a day that has special meaning. It is Haitian Independence Day (1804). Haitians are the only people in history to free themselves and found a nation. The Creole and African triumph was the beginning of the end of Atlantic slavery. Haiti remains the most African country in the Americas.
The tradition was founded by activist Dr. Maulana Karenga, PhD in 1966. Today, families who observe Kwanzaa often do so in addition to Christmas.
Kwanzaa reconnects us with traditions that were stripped from our ancestors. It is an opportunity to recover and celebrate our traditions, our selves. For everyone else, Kwanzaa has something to offer too. These are principles of humanity, so if you are human, there is something here for you.
The Seven Principles
- Umoja ~ Unity
- Kujichagulia ~ Self-Determination
- Ujima ~ Collective Work and Responsibility
- Ujamaa ~ Cooperative Economics
- Nia ~ Purpose
- Kuumba ~ Creativity
- Imani ~ Faith
The daily Kwanzaa greeting is “Habari Gani?” which is Swahili for “How are you?”
The language of Kwanzaa is based on Swahili, the Bantu east African language. Swahili has Arabic influences from the traders who used to work the coasts of Africa and the African-India trade. The Swahili-Arab connection is obvious in the Bantu “shukrani” (thanks) which is similar to “shukria” or thank you in Urdu, the language of Muslim Pakistan.
- The Mkeka is the mat on which other symbols are placed.
- The Kinara is a seven-candle candelabra.
- The Mishumaa Saba are the seven candles.
- Mazao are the African crops.
- Mahindi is corn. Ears of corn represent children.
- The Kikombe cha Umoja is the unity cup.
- Zawadi are gifts.