Begins Monday, December 26 — Ends Sunday, January 1
Observed annually between December 26 and January 1, Kwanzaa is a Pan-African cultural celebration and holiday designed to support the social, cultural and economic fabric of the African American community in the U.S. by strengthening its connection to African culture.
American Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 during the aftermath of the Watts riots, as a specifically African-American holiday. Karenga said his goal was to “give blacks an alternative to the existing holiday of Christmas and give blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society
The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits”. First fruits festivals exist in Southern Africa, celebrated in December/January with the southern solstice.
Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles)
Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba – the seven principles of African Heritage). They were developed in 1965, a year before Kwanzaa itself. These seven principles are all Swahili words, and together comprise the Kawaida or “common” philosophy, a synthesis of nationalist, pan-Africanist, and socialist values.
Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles, as follows:
- Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family and community.
- Kujichagulia (Self-determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
- 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 hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.