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What is Kwanzaa? And How to Celebrate

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 today 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.

Tell Us: Do you have any facts about Kwanzaa that you would like to share? Please write them in the comments section below.

This list was compiled with information from City News Service.

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Duke December 26, 2012 at 10:42 PM
I'd like to wish Oren Spiegler a Happy Kwanzaa!
bob balmer December 26, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Now this is funny!
Roger December 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM
The man-made celebration of Kwanzaa is depleting. This is the first mention I've seen this year. This is what happens when an idea sprouts without a foundational reason. While the points of interest have great merit. trying to create something for the something's sake looses its value quickly. This is true of any program that is baseless, and has only an appeal to emotions. Kwanazza will fade away soon, like all other attempts at promotions that are conjured up by mankind. After a short time, people see through the transparency.

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