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  • Writer's pictureThe Dayton Weekly News

Honoring African Culture, Heritage and Values

Kwanzaa occurs annually, between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.

SUE JARRETT, Associated Press

The Swahili saying, which translates to "How are you?" is the popular greeting for the celebration known as Kwanzaa.


The week-long holiday honoring African culture, heritage and tradition occurs annually between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, with celebrations taking place across the country.


How did Kwanzaa be-gin?

According to USA TODAY, Maulana Karenga, an Africana studies professor at California State University, founded Kwanzaa in 1966.


Karenga added an extra letter to the last word of the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits," in honor of the seven children who at-tended one of the first Kwanzaa celebrations, Encyclopedia Brittanica reports.


The decades-old holiday is inspired by African harvest festivals. It's mainly celebrated in North America and the Caribbean, and is a nonreligious, secular holiday.


How is Kwanzaa celebrated?

Kwanzaa, the holiday that honors African culture, heritage and values, occurs annually between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.

Seven principles represent each day of Kwanzaa:

  1. Umoja or unity.

  2. Kujichagulia or self-determination.

  3. Ujima or collective responsibility.

  4. Ujamma or cooperative economics.

  5. Nia or purpose.

  6. Kuumba or creativity.

  7. Imani or faith.

Seven candles in shades of red, green and black correspond with the days. They are held in a kinara, which is a candle-holder used specifically for Kwanzaa. Other symbols typically included in Kwanzaa celebrations are fruits, nuts, vegetables, a straw mat, a communal cup and a Pan-African flag.


Kwanzaa can be celebrated in family gatherings, communal settings or alone. As long as you reflect on its principles, light the candles and have a karamu, or feast, you are celebrating the spirit of Kwanzaa. The karamu, typically held Dec. 31, usually includes gumbo, okra, plantains, couscous and other diasporic dishes.

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