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 kwanzaa  kwanzaa3  kwanzaa


December 26th - January 1st

Theme 2008: "Kwanzaa and the Seven Principles: Repairing and Renewing the World"

Kwanzaa, a non-religious holiday traditionally celebrated by black Americans, edifies and venerates community, family, and culture. The name “kwanzaa” comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili.

Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga during the Black Freedom Movement, and in the specific context of The Organization Us, the founding organization of Kwanzaa and the authoritative keeper of its tradition. The holiday was created to serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds within the black community. Kwanzaa is a reflection of the prominent concern for cultural solidity in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this.

Kwanzaa lasts for seven days and was conceived and established to serve several functions. It builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African "first fruit" celebrations: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration. Kwanzaa, then, is:

  • a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them;
  • a time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation;
  • a time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honor of its models of human excellence, our ancestors;
  • a time of recommitment to out highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural though and practice; and
  • a time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.

The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green: black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. There is one black candle, three red candles, and three green candles. These are the mishumaa saba (the seven candles) and they represent the seven principles. Each evening the celebrating family gathers to light the candles; the candle corresponding to the principle of the day is lit. The candle lighting procedure is done to indicate that the people come first, then the struggle and then the hope that comes from the struggle.


African American Cultural Center. (1999-2008) Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from

History. Kwanzaa. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from


ECU Libraries Materials
Official Site


Why We Celebrate—or Don’t Celebrate Kwanzaa.
African Americans and International Cultural Observances in the Higher Education Community
Kwanzaa: The Making of a Black Nationalist Tradition, 1966-1990.
Kwanzaa Information Center
Mainstreaming Kwanzaa