Winter Holidays Around the World: Kwanzaa


The Feast of Faith is called Karamu Ya Imani.  Family members gather on December 31 to enjoy traditional African cuisine; although the menu can vary depending on the family and traditions. has a selection of Kwanzaa recipes to try.


Akara Black-Eyed Pea Fritters

Maafe West African Peanut Soup

Maafe West African Peanut Stew 

Peanut Soup and Fufu

Peanut Soup and Fufu (cassava and green plantains)

When is it celebrated?

December 26 - January 1

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What is the History of Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community, and culture.

Kwanzaa is an African-Americans celebration of life, a “first fruit” (harvest) celebration    Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili.  Kwanzaa was first introduced to the United States by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966.

Kwanzaa places emphasis on children because they are key to cultural survival and the development of the community. Kwanzaa stresses the commitment to strengthen the family, community, and culture.

The Symbols of Kwanzaa


Every element of the table display represents the values and views that reflect the African culture.

The table is set with fruits and vegetables that represent Mazao [Maah-zow] (The crops), which symbolize the collective labor of the harvest.  The Muhindi [Moo-heen-dee] (the corn) symbolizes the children and their continuation of tradition and culture.

Items are placed on a Mkeka [M-kay-cah] (The mat).  It represents the foundation where tradition and history are built.

Kikombe cha Umoja [Kee-com-bay chah-oo-moe-jah] (The Unity Cup) each day the cup is filled with water, wine, or juice.  Everyone in the family drinks from the cup, symbolizing the unity of the family and the community.

Kinara [Kee-nah-rah]  (The Candle Holder) represents the roots of the people, from which all African ancestors came.

Mishumaa [Mee-shoo-maah] Saba The seven candles represent one of the seven principles.  Each night a candle is lit and its meaning is discussed.

  • Black - Umoja [oo-MO-jah] (Unity)
  • Red 
    • Kujichagulia [koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah] (Self-determination)
    • Ujamaa [oo-JAH-mah] (Cooperative economics)
    • Kuumba [koo-OOM-bah] (creativity)
  • Green
    • Ujima [oo-GEE-mah] (Responsibility)
    • Nia [nee-YAH] (Purpose)
    • Imani [ee-MAH-nee] (Faith)

The colors of Kwanzaa: Black represents the people, Red for their struggle, and Green for hope and for the future.

Zawadi [Sah-wah-dee] (The Gifts) is a symbol of commitments made and kept.  Children are the main recipients of gifts. The gifts should not be excessive and they are not mandatory.  Suggested gifts should include two items: A book and a present that represents heritage.