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History

Introduction

Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community, and culture. Celebrated annually from December 26th thru January 1st, Kwanzaa is the world's fastest growing holiday with over 20 million celebrants worldwide.

Kwanzaa seeks to enforce a connectedness to African cultural identity, provide a focal point for the gathering of African peoples, and to reflect upon the Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles. People of all religious faiths and backgrounds practice Kwanzaa. As Maya Angelou explains in The Black Candle, "It is a time when we gather in the spirit of family and community, to celebrate life, love, unity, and hope."

African Roots

The first Kwanzaa celebration was held on Dec. 26 1966 in Los Angles California. Kwanzaa began here in the United States, but its roots reach back to African harvest festivities called First Fruits Celebrations. The word Kwanzaa comes from the phrase matunda ya kwanza which means first fruits in the pan-African language Swahili. First Fruits Celebrations date as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia.

African-American Branches

Rooted in this ancient history and culture, Kwanzaa develops as a flourishing branch of the African American life and struggle as a recreated and expanded ancient tradition. Thus, it bears special characteristics only an African American holiday but also a Pan-African one, For it draws from the cultures of various African peoples, and is celebrated by millions of Africans throughout the world African community. Moreover, these various African peoples celebrate Kwanzaa because it speaks not only to African Americans in a special way, but also to Africans as a whole, in its stress on history, values, family, community and culture.

Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement and thus reflects its concern for cultural groundedness in thought and practice, and the unity and self-determination associated with this. It was conceived and established to reaffirm and restore our rootedness in African culture, serve as a regular communal celebration to reaffirm and reinforce the bonds between us as a people, and to introduce and reinforce the Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles).

Kwanzaa Today

Dr. Maulana Karenga, founder of Kwanzaa, explains: "The central message and meaning of Kwanzaa is rooted in its raising up and bringing forth the ancient African model and practice of producing, harvesting and sharing good in the world. Kwanzaa stresses the importance of our sowing the seeds of goodness everywhere, of cultivating them with care and loving kindness, of harvesting the products of our efforts with joy and of sharing the good of it all throughout the community and the world. Thus, of all the rich and expansive ways we can express the meaning and message of Kwanzaa, none is more important than seeing it and embracing it as a season and celebration of bringing good into the world."