A non-religious holiday, Kwanzaa celebrates African-American
heritage, pride, community, family, and culture. The
seven-day festival commences the day after Christmas
and culminates on New Year's Day.
Inspired by the civil rights struggles of the
1960s and based on ancient African celebrations, Kwanzaa
has become increasingly popular over the last decade.
More than 20 million people celebrate in the United
States, Canada, England, the Carribean and Africa.
Kwanzaa's ancient roots lie in African first-fruit
harvest celebrations, from which it takes its
name. The word Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili
phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first
Those roots are the foundation on which the modern
holiday was built. Maulana Karenga, an African-American
scholar and activist, conceived Kwanzaa in 1966
following the Watts riot. Currently, Karenga is chairman
of the Department of Black Studies at California State
University at Long Beach.
Karenga says Kwanzaa is organized around five fundamental
activities common to other African first-fruit celebrations:
* the ingathering of family, friends, and community;
* reverence for the creator and creation (including
thanksgiving and recommitment to respect the environment
and heal the world);
* commemoration of the past (honoring ancestors,
learning lessons and emulating achievements of
* recommitment to the highest cultural ideals of the
African community (for example, truth, justice, respect
for people and nature, care for the vulnerable, and
respect for elders); and
* celebration of the "Good of Life" (for
example, life, struggle, achievement, family, community,