While falling around the same time as Christmas and Hanukkah, being celebrated December 26 – January 1, Kwanzaa is different in that it is not a religious holiday at all. Instead, it is a celebration of life that some African Americans (mostly from the United States) celebrate each year. Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga to observe African culture and motivate and encourage African Americans. The name Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase that translates to “first fruits of the harvest.” Celebrations of the holiday often include African stories, poems, drumming and dancing. Children receive gifts and there is a big feast on December 31 called Karamu.
There are three colors represented throughout Kwanzaa that each have a meaning. Black stands for the color of the people, red stands for their struggle and green represents the hope and future that comes from their struggle.
The kinara holds the seven candles that are lit throughout Kwanzaa. The middle candle (which is lit the first night) is black, the three candles to the left are red (lit the second through fourth nights) and the three candles to the right are green (lit the last nights). The order in which the candles are lit is to symbolize that people come first, then struggle, and lastly the hope that precedes the struggle. Each night a candle is lit, one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, Nguzo Saba, is discussed.
National Geographic Kids has Celebrate Kwanzaa. This is a nonfiction book with beautiful photographs.
Seven Spools of Thread is a story about seven brothers living in an African village who learn the values of Kwanzaa.