How Did Kwanza Get its Name, What Does the Word Mean in Swahili, and How Did the Celebration Originate?

Kwanza is a seven-day celebration beginning the day after Christmas.

It was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, chairman of African studies at California State University, and is based on an African winter harvest.

Kwanza means “first fruits” in Swahili and celebrates African heritage.

On each night of Kwanza, one of several candles is lit and gifts reflecting creativity and community are exchanged.

Kwanza is based on seven principles:

umoja means unity.

kujichagulla means self-determination.

ujima means collective work and responsibility.

ujamaa means cooperative economics.

nia means purpose.

kuumba means creativity.

and imani means faith.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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