Invented by Cal State Long Beach professor Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa is a uniquely African American holiday that begins on Dec. 26 and ends on January 1. Its purpose is to celebrate family, community, and culture.

It is formualted around seven principals: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). According to, "Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles and is organized around activities and discussion to emphasize that principle."

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Created in 1966 by Maulana (Ron) Karenga, Kwanzaa is a seven-day cultural observance for those of African descent. Strict rules do not apply to this holiday, instead folks are urged to add personal touches and focus on inner talents. Karenga named seven principles meant to guide reflection during this celebration. Families are urged to share stories illustrating unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Kwanzaa literally means "first fruits of the harvest," and it is meant to be a joyful, reflective time of soul-searching.

  1. Unity (Umoja)

  2. Self-determination (Kujichagulia)

  3. Collective work and responsibility (Ujima)

  4. Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa)

  5. Purpose (Nia)

  6. Creativity (Kuumba)

  7. Faith (Imani)

Info from API/cnn

There are also seven symbols that are a part of the Kwanzaa celebration.

  1. The mat - this is a symbol of the foundations that communities are built on. It is usually made of straw and is the designated place to put all of the other symbols.
  2. Seven candles - symbolizing the seven principles mentioned in the earlier write ups.
  3. The candlestick - holds the seven candles and is said to represent the branching of the human family. Other sources say that it symbolizes stalks of corn. I'm not exactly sure why.
  4. The unity cup - participants drink from this to memorialize their African ancestors.
  5. Ears of corn - one is placed on the mat for each child present at the celebration.
  6. Mazao - usually fruits and vegetables used to symbolize the simple foods their African ancestors ate.
  7. The gifts - given to children on January 1 and usually have something to do with African culture.

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