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Celebrate Diversity: Kwanzaa

December 26, 2022

Kwanzaa is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

During the week of Kwanzaa, families and communities come together to share a feast, to honor the ancestors, affirm the bonds between them, and to celebrate African and African American culture. Each day they light a candle to highlight the principle of that day and to breathe meaning into the principles with various activities, such as reciting the sayings or writings of great black thinkers and writers, reciting original poetry, African drumming, and sharing a meal of African diaspora-inspired foods. The table is decorated with the essential symbols of Kwanzaa, such as the Kinara (Candle Holder), Mkeka (Mat), Muhindi (corn to represent the children), Mazao (fruit to represent the harvest), and Zawadi (gifts). One might also see the colors of the Pan-African flag, red (the struggle), black (the people), and green (the future), represented throughout the space and in the clothing worn by participants. These colors were first proclaimed to be the colors for all people of the African diaspora by Marcus Garvey.

Created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates history, values, family, community and culture. The ideas and concepts of Kwanzaa are expressed in the Swahili language, one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa. The seven principles which form its core were drawn from communitarian values found throughout the African continent.

These principles are:

Umoja (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia(Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

 Ujamaa(Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together

Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa fun facts:

  • A relatively new holiday, Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by activist Maulana Karenga, PhD, during the civil rights movement as a holiday specifically for African Americans.
  • From the Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits,” Kwanzaa celebrations are based on the many harvest festivals and rituals practiced across Africa.
  • The first fruits and vegetables of the harvest traditionally included the likes of mango, pineapple, oranges, okra, eggplant and yams, all of which were part of the diet of enslaved Africans who were brought to the Americas.
  • The Kuumba feast features a central meal typically from the American continent and surrounding dishes from different African communities.

Visit our display tables at all hospital cafeteria locations and Lime Spring celebrating Kwanzaa and pick up coloring pages!


Reading list to learn more about Kwanzaa for Children


December 26, 2022


Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
View Organizer Website

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