Kwanzaa Facts: How to Celebrate the Week-Long Festival

Kwanzaa is celebrated in the United States from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

The seven-day festival of Kwanzaa, which celebrates African-American heritage and culture, starts Wednesday, Dec. 26 and ends Tuesday, Jan. 1. Here are some facts about the week-long holiday.

  • Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, now chair of California State University Long Beach's Department of Africana Studies, in what he called "an audacious act of self-determination."
  • The name "Kwanzaa" comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits."
  • Kwanzaa's focus is the "Nguzo Saba," or the Seven Principles—unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
  • During the week, a candelabrum called a Kinara is lit, and ears of corn representing each child in the family are placed on a traditional straw mat.
  • African foods such as millet, spiced pepper balls and rice are often served. Some people fast during the holiday and a feast is often held on its final night.
  • A flag with three bars—red for the struggle for freedom, black for unity, and green for the future—is sometimes displayed during the holiday.
  • Kwanzaa is based on the theory of Kawaida, which espouses that social revolutionary change for black America can be achieved by exposing blacks to their cultural heritage.
  • A poll commissioned by the National Retail Federation and conducted by BIGresearch from Oct. 4 to Oct. 11 found that 2 percent of the 8,585 adults surveyed said they would celebrate Kwanzaa, compared to 90.5 percent who celebrate Christmas and 5.4 percent who celebrate Hanukkah.

—This list was compiled with information from City News Service.

Wastonville gun guy December 26, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Are you still bleeding way back there in the 1960's?
Wastonville gun guy December 26, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I like the idea of a white holiday to celebrate how wonderful it is to be white! Everyone else may join in and tell us how great we are.
Wastonville gun guy December 26, 2012 at 05:57 PM
What cultural heritage? Blacks were sold by their own people to be sold in the Americas. They have been here for over 200 years and are now Americans like the rest of us.
Wastonville gun guy December 26, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Have you ever tried NOT doing the Christmas thing? Good Luck Bucky.
Wastonville gun guy December 26, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Lets see, where are all my Kwanzza invites? Gee, some how all of my black friends seem to think it's a dumb idea...hum.
Amanda Frye December 26, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Kwanzaa bread is a nutritious and delicious way to celebrate Kwanzaa. The sweet potatoes, carrots and orange juice help give the rich orange color while contributing to a sweet, robust flavor found in this bread. For the Kwanzaa bread recipe go to http://sm.eatright.org/kwanzaabread
Rich December 26, 2012 at 08:28 PM
OK then. Nice to see a lively discussion of my simple question. Thank all who joined in, even the far left and right should speak, I believe. I guess my question should have been phrased a little differently. Asking if a non-black person would be honestly welcomed into the celebration with the general attendees as a whole, or would they be shunned and made to feel like an intruder. I sure wish we could sit in a room together and ask/express our true questions and likes and dislikes of each other. Like----Why do YOU PEOPLE-------------------? Why don't YOU PEOPLE______________? How can we change how WE PEOPLE___________? Just a thought. Know it will never happen but I hope I get to be a better person at least one day and one interaction with others every day. Happy New Year to all!! Actually Happy New Day, every day to all. Rick
Andy Smith December 26, 2012 at 08:58 PM
I can tell from some of the comments on here that the old saying is true: "Ignorance is bliss". So, what's it like in the land of bliss? All it takes to learn about Kwanzaa and its founder is to do some Googling to learn the truth. Hey--don't shoot the messenger. Read it for yourself!
Andy Smith December 26, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Steve K. wrote: "A white only holiday? You don't say? Like Hanukkah?" No, I was thinking more along the lines of a big group of people, maybe something like the National Association for the Advancement of White People.
Mariana Zuelsdorf December 26, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Reminder to self..do not stay at the Biltmore. A manager who doesn't know how to spell manager. And where in the world is 'Wastonville'?
Mariana Zuelsdorf December 27, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Sorry, Leon, but from the various comments on here, it's evident that human qualities don't exist and certainly aren't 'present in these white Americans'. One could assume that 'attributes necessary for human development were bred out of them'. Amazing how a person can get upset over African culture but accept Mexican cultural traditions.
Harry Spider II December 27, 2012 at 12:12 AM
I find it riotously funny when white people encounter something that (they THINK) excludes them. They turn into 4th graders screaming "that's not fair!" How embarrassing. As a white person, it just doesn't bother me AT ALL to have black history month, Kwanzaa, or whatever. I wonder why I don't feel threatened by all this stuff... even if I agreed that this stuff excludes whites, so what? considering history, let them have their celebration. It doesn't take away from me one little bit; why do YOU think it's a problem for you? oh, you feel left out? of what? all the shopping bargains, songs, advertising, children's games at school? oh right, that doesn't happen, cuz it's WHITE CHRISTMAS we been dreamin' of... relax, people, no one's coming for your women... If I decided to celebrate Kwanzaa, I doubt any person would try to stop me, and if they did, I'd tell them they're wrong to do so. It's not required to be a member of a group to support the cause of that group. I'm not a cancer survivor, but I support them too.
Harry Spider II December 27, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Oh it's a phony day? made-up, you say? hmmm... and Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus? really? so, do you know when Jesus's birthday actually was? (bonus question: do you know what his real name was, in the original text?) do you know who St. Nicholas was, and how it relates to today's Santa Claus? there aren't large amounts of this that have been made-up? Look in the mirror folks; if you want to start changing minds, start there. xoxo
Wastonville gun guy December 27, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Well spider boy who really cares? We are the winners. It is our culture. It is what it is. If a group want to make up some crap and call it kwanzzaa I say BS on that. You and your bleeding heart revisionists can just dig a hole and live in it.
Lorraine Pozniak December 27, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Steven Kippel, Sammy Davis, Jr. would've loved hearing you say Hanukkah was a "white only" holiday...Religion transcends race, or didn't you know that?
Mariana Zuelsdorf December 27, 2012 at 07:20 AM
Gun boy, you aren't a winner. Unless your ancestors came prior to 1619-1789, African-American original slave descendants are more American than you are. It's nobody's 'culture'. We, as a nation, are a melting pot of different cultures. Clueless
Mark Paxson December 27, 2012 at 02:17 PM
"We are the winners." Pretty funny. I'm still trying to figure out why people can't let other people celebrate their own holidays. Nobody's explained that. Instead, it's just a lot of hate, racism, and superiority. We are the winners. Apparently, you don't read much or look around you either -- you might want to read about the changing demographics of our state and our country.
Stamford Bridge December 27, 2012 at 04:21 PM
@ Watsonville Man - Um maybe because the enslavement of Africans was perpetrated in this country by white people. Just a thought... As a white male, I find it disappointing that I see so many cynics when it comes to Kwanzaa. It's not my holiday, nor is Hanukkah, or Yom Kuppur. So why is it being criticized? Why can't people that the holiday does not apply to, just shut up and leave it to those who choose to celebrate? Why is that so hard to understand? We Christians, freak out when somebody wants to remove a Christmas Tree or refer to it as the Spring Holiday season (Easter). People need to quit being defensive about their own religion and start respecting the ceremonies and rituals and holidays of others. A closed mind prevents enlightenment...
Harry Spider II December 27, 2012 at 05:28 PM
"revisionists" what a cute thing to say... from the person who said "it is our culture" HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HA HA HAH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA !!!!!! btw, could you tell us where the heck is WASTONVILLE anyway... (that's how you spelled it pal) No matter how it's spellt, have a great day!
Harry Spider II December 27, 2012 at 05:34 PM
But Stamford, don't you know there's a WAR on Christmas??? just turn on Fox, they'll tell you ... (Jewish folks find the idea that Christmas is under attack HILARIOUS) Just kidding... Like you say, there's no reason for folks to be so put out by Kwanzaa. It just shows insecurity on their part when they object.
Will Wilkin December 27, 2012 at 08:40 PM
"social revolutionary change for black America can be achieved by exposing blacks to their cultural heritage" This is the USA, not a Swahili-speaking country. American identity should focus on our common American culture, our common interests and fate as a nation. To promote splintering "racial" identities is to Balkanize our culture, unnecessarily and, I assert, harmfully. This country needs unity, not artificial identity constructs to make people feel separate. Scientists know there is no such thing as race. I recommend the book "Out Of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa" by Keith Richburg. It paints a horrible picture of African politics and culture today, and contains many reflections by the author on how despite having black skin he felt zero identity with Africa and 100% with the USA. I highly recommend the book to anyone who thinks racial identity means anything (it does not), or that somehow the ancestry hundreds of years removed is more important than building a common culture in the society we share today.
Mark Paxson December 28, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Rudy ... thank you for your incredibly valuable contribution to the conversation. Much appreciated. Interesting, I wonder what your bible tells you about calling somebody an idiot because they don't hold the same view as you. Rudy ... let me ask you directly the question I've asked twice now and which nobody has an answer for ... why does it matter to you whether somebody "celebrates" differently than you?
Mark Paxson December 28, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Rudy ... I'll give you a clue because, well in the interest of the season, I feel like helping my fellow man. You're no better than me. You're no better than an African-American who celebrates Kwanzaa or a Jew who celebrates Hanukkah. You're no better because you're white. Or brown. Yellow. Or black. The fact that you believe in Jesus Christ makes you no different than people who believe in the Budda, Muhammad, the Earth god and the Sun god, or those who believe in nothing at all. You have a right to celebrate your beliefs as you see fit, as long as they do no harm to me. Just as those who wish to celebrate their heritage, culture, and roots as African-Americans have the right to celebrate as they see fit, as long as they do no harm to you or me. I have yet to hear of any Kwanzaa celebration that has done harm to others. If you know otherwise, please feel free to share. Otherwise, all you demonstrate is your narrow, bigoted, ignorant, false superiority to the rest of the world. That goes for the rest of you as well. The hate, bigotry, and sheer stupidity that has evidenced itself on this thread is stunning. It's one thing to disagree on whether gun control has value, but to attack people for their celebrations?!?! Really?!?! You're all disgusting. Every single one of you who believe there is validity in the attacks on Kwanzaa.
Rebecca Whitnall (Editor) December 28, 2012 at 03:06 AM
A comment has been deleted from this thread for violating Patch's terms of use. Spirited discussion is fine; however, please refrain from personal attacks.
OldTimeGilroy December 28, 2012 at 03:58 AM
"Kwanzaa" was started by an FBI stool pigeon and ex-con. As to the "principles," they're the thinly disguised writings of Karl Marx.
T. Gunter December 28, 2012 at 04:47 AM
As soon as Christianity was legal (315), more and more pagan temples were destroyed by Christian mob. Between 315 and 6th century thousands of pagan believers were slain. Pagan services became punishable by death in 356. In 6th century pagans were declared void of all rights. In the early fourth century the philosopher Sopatros was executed on demand of Christian authorities. The world famous female philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria was torn to pieces with glass fragments by a hysterical Christian mob led by a Christian minister named Peter, in a church, in 415. Makes FBI stool pigeons, ex-cons, and Marxism pale in comparison.
Stamford Bridge December 28, 2012 at 04:28 PM
@ Harry Spider - there is no war on Christmas and I watch enough Fox News to know, that other than Bill O'Reilly I didn't see or hear about it there either. THERE is a lack of respect shown towards Christianity though and I don't think that can be denied. SNL can do a disrespectful "Jesus" bit and people laugh. Some extremist makes an unflattering clip on YouTube of Mohammed, and our entire news cycle covers it as disrespectful. Christians have been shunned back to equal levels as any other faith or religion in our country. Sadly good Christians (which is the vast majority of them) have had to accept a lot of negativity due to the behavior of Christian extremists. These extremists have tried to hold a Faith hostage with their views, but like anything else, evolution of thought occurs and hopefully those types will soon be less prevalent. Until they are, the media will continue to expose them for the extremists they are...
Will Wilkin December 28, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Hello Rebecca, I hope you aren't accusing me of "personal attacks?" Whatever is the meaning of your comment here?
Rebecca Whitnall (Editor) December 28, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Hi Will, No, I was referring to a reply to your above comment. Instead of just deleting a comment, I generally leave a note so the person who posted the deleted post understands why it's not there and so if there are comments replying to the offending comment, it helps later readers understand that the comments might be referring to something that's no longer there. -Becca
Will Wilkin December 28, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Thanks much Becca for the explanation. Thanks for keeping discussion civil, I really like Patch precisely because there is a great discussion, most of it respectful and constructive. Thanks again, --Will.


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