Established as an African American celebration in 1966 for African Americans and African Canadians to honor their history and cultural foundation, Kwanzaa is a holiday of reflection and hope. The seven-day celebration honors African American history and celebrates seven principles and symbols demonstrating the strength, self-determination and unity of the African American family.

Seven principles

Kwanzaa is built on a foundation of seven principles blending history and hope for the future in African American culture. Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith are honored during the seven-day Kwanzaa celebration.

The seven symbols promote historical recognition of harvest celebrations, present celebration of the labor and love of parents for their children and the hope for the future found in children.


Seven symbols

The crops, the mat, the candle holder, the corn, the seven candles, the unity cup and the gifts are the seven Kwanzaa symbols. Along with the two supplemental symbols of the flag and the poster of the seven principles, the seven symbols promote historical recognition of harvest celebrations, present celebration of the labor and love of parents for their children and the hope for the future found in children.

Celebrating Kwanzaa

People of all religions take part in Kwanzaa, as it is a cultural celebration, not a religious celebration. With self-determination as one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, it should be celebrated on its own and not in combination with other winter holiday celebrations.

Decorations focus on the Kwanzaa colors of red, black and green and include African baskets, cloth patterns, art objects and harvest symbols. Kwanzaa celebrators light the seven candles during the seven days of Kwanzaa, beginning with the black candles representing the African people, then the red representing their struggle and finally the green representing the hope following the struggle.

Traditional Kwanzaa gifts include books and heritage symbols. The books represent the value in education and tradition of learning. The heritage symbols signify the commitment to tradition and history.

Who am I? Am I really who I say I am? Am I all I want to be?


Meaning and significance

Kwanzaa celebrates family, community and culture in a manner that truly honors the strength found in looking towards the future while paying tribute to the traditions and struggles of the past.

The three questions of Kwanzaa all stress self-reflection, honesty and growth: Who am I? Am I really who I say I am? Am I all I want to be? The seven-day Kwanzaa celebration ends on January 1 with a Day of Meditation, providing an opportunity to begin the new year with a renewed sense of self, hope and positivity.

All families can appreciate a fresh, hopeful beginning for the year.

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