What is it?

A weeklong, cultural celebration honoring African-American culture and heritage, Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor and department chair at California State University, Long Beach.

Unaffiliated with any religion, Kwanzaa is a celebration of community, family and culture that was established as a way for African-Americans to reconnect with their roots and heritage.

First celebrated in December 1966, Kalenga summed up the meaning of the holiday at an event, saying “the celebration of Kwanzaa is about embracing ethical principles and values ... so the goodness of the world can be shared and enjoyed by us and everyone.”

When is it?

Kwanzaa occurs over the same seven days each year, beginning on December 26 and ending January 1.

The celebration lasts for seven days to honor the seven principles founder Karenga chose to celebrate, otherwise known as the Nguzo Saba.

These include unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

What does Kwanzaa mean?

Pronounced “kwahn-zuh”, the term – which you can spell Kwanzaa or Kwanza – comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, which means “first fruits.”

How is it celebrated?

Each family celebrates Kwanzaa differently but festivities commonly involve dancing, singing, gift giving and a large traditional meal.

Those participating in the celebration often decorate their house with fruits, Kwanzaa flags, and a kinara – a candleholder with seven slots that holds candles in black, red and green.

At the end of the first day, the black candle in the centre is lit, followed by the others on subsequent nights.

On the penultimate day, New Year’s Eve, partakers celebrate with the Kwanzaa karamu, or feast, before exchanging gifts on the final day of the holiday, New Year’s Day.

Who celebrates it?

Kwanzaa is considered a cultural holiday, not a religious one according to the Official Kwanzaa Website.

As such, African American communities of all religious faiths come together to celebrate their shared culture and heritage.


Kwanzaa Principles


  • ​Umoja: Unity. To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia: Self-Determination: ...
  • Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility. ...
  • Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics. ...
  • Nia: Purpose. ...
  • Kuumba: Creativity. ...
  • Imani: Faith.

Kwanzaa 2017 in United States of America began on Tuesday December 26 and ends on Monday January 1, 2018