Kwanzaa 2021: Things to know about the meaning, principles, colors of the holiday

December 26 marks the beginning of Kwanzaa, a seven-night celebration of Black and African family, community and culture.

Holiday has become celebrated by millions of people around the world, which strengthens roots for both African heritage and the African community at large.

Here’s what you need to know about Kwanzaa:

What is the origin of the holiday?

Dr. Maulana Karenga, an influential professor of Africana studies at California State University, Long Beach, founded Kwanzaa in 1966 during the Black Freedom Movement.

The origin of the non-religious holiday is tied to the celebration of the first harvest in Africa, according to Official holiday website.

What does kwanzaa mean?

The name of the holiday is directly derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruit of the season”. Celebrations around “firstfruits” have a deep history in African culture and major religions, although Kwanzaa itself is not a religious holiday.

What do the red, green and black colors represent?

Kwanzaa’s official website says that black represents the people, red for their struggle and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. Black, red and green candles are lit on Kinara, a candle holder, during the holiday.

How is Kwanzaa celebrated?


During the holiday, families and communities organize around what is known as the seven principles, or Nguzo Saba.

The seven principles include solidarity, self-determination, teamwork and responsibility, cooperative economy, purpose, creativity and trust.

People celebrate with parties, also known as karamu, music, dance, poetry, narrative and gifts that are encouraged to educate and promote African heritage.

The holiday ends with a day dedicated to reflecting on and embracing the Seven Principles and other core cultural values.

What are the seven symbols of Kwanzaa?

The seven symbols of Kwanzaa are Kinara, a candlestick; Misumaa Saba, seven candles; Mkeka, the mat; Mazao, crops; Muhindi, ear of corn; Kikombe Cha Umoja, a cup of solidarity; and Zawadi, gifts.

At the start of the holiday, a central place in the home is chosen to spread an African cloth on the table, followed by a mat, followed by other symbols, such as candle holders, crops, corn and cups of solidarity .

Who can celebrate Kwanzaa?

While the holiday celebrates both African-American and Pan-African culture, Anyone is welcome to celebrate Kwanzaa. Also, because Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday in nature, it can be celebrated alongside other major religious and secular holidays.

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Dais Johnston

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