Joyous Kwanzaa! 9 Things You Didn't Know About the Holiday


Sure, you know Kwanzaa exists. You may even know what it's about. But do you know what it looks like? Here, have a look.

1. When is it?

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that begins annually on Dec. 26 and lasts until Jan. 1. It was created to be the first African American holiday.

2. How did Kwanzaa begin?

The holiday was created by activist and professor Maulana Karenga around 1966 to "give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society."

3. What should you say to someone who celebrates it?

The official holiday greeting is "Joyous Kwanzaa."

4. What's it all about?

Kwanzaa features seven core principles, with each of the seven days honoring one principle. The principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

5. Christmas has the tree. Hanukkah has the menorah. What are Kwanzaa's symbols?

Symbols of Kwanzaa include a decorative mat, corn, a candle-holder with seven candles, a communal cup, gifts, a poster of the seven principles, and a flag.

6. What about decorations?

Kwanzaa decorations include colorful, African cloths and fresh fruit. Women wear kaftans.

7. What's in it for the kids?

Children are included in Kwanzaa ceremonies, and respect is paid to ancestors.

8. How is it celebrated exactly?

A Kwanzaa ceremony typically features music (especially drumming), drinking from the aforementioned communal cup, and a candle-lighting ritual.

9. How does it end?

Kwanzaa culminates in a feast and gift-giving.