Kwanzaa’s Karamu feast lands on December 31st, the day the sixth principle, kuumba (creativity), is celebrated. Have a pre-meal cultural program of music, dance or poetry. Make your own holiday decorations (see the Party Guide for ideas). Fill the Kwanzaa dinner table with a lively mix of traditional African dishes and African-American soul food favorites. Remember to make the Karamu feast a group effort. After all, community spirit is at Kwanzaa’s very heart.
A Brief History of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is a seven-day non-secular African American heritage and culture celebration running from December 26th to January 1st each year. Author, activist and professor Maulana Ron Karenga created it in 1966 to re-affirm African Americans’ roots in the wake of Civil Rights' struggles here in America. It makes sense, then, that the holiday takes inspiration from traditional ancient Pan-African harvest celebrations. The holiday's name comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza or "first fruits." Though each family celebrates Kwanza in its own way, the holiday's core activities, focusing on family, community and culture, are standard. Each night, a candle is lit for one of the seven principles (see below). On the 31st, the Karamu feast is held, and zawadi, or gifts, usually with cultural significance, are exchanged on the final day.
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa
Each of Kwanzaa's seven days is dedicated to one of seven guiding principles or Nguzo Saba. Each night, a candle is lit in recognition of the day's principle.
Day 1, December 26: Umoja or Unity, in both family and community
Day 2, December 27: Kujichagulia or Self-Determination
Day 3, December 28: Ujima or Collective Work & Responsibility
Day 4, December 29: Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics
Day 5, December 30: Nia or Purpose
Day 6, December 31: Kuumba or Creativity
Day 7, January 1: Imani or Faith
The guiding principle of Kwanzaa's Karamu feast day is creativity, giving you meaningful reason to experiment with ambiance. Here are some ideas to get those creative juices flowing.
- The kinara, or candleholder, set on a mkeka, or straw mat, and all the related Kwanzaa symbols, are the focus of your feast. Give them prized and prominent placement.
- Red, green and black are the colors of Kwanzaa. Black symbolizes the people, red stands for struggle, and green represents hope for the future. Use these colors in your tablecloth, placemats, napkins, flower arrangements, and any other decorations around your home. Incorporate the Bendera Ya Taifa, the black, red and green Kwanzaa flag. Get creative!
- Stay true to the community spirit of Kwanzaa and involve the whole family. Kids can make a chart of Kwanzaa's seven principals, a paper garland using Kwanza colors, or simply art depicting what the holiday means to them.
- Fill a decorative basket with lots of colorful, seasonal fruits and vegetables as a nod to Kwanzaa's roots as a harvest festival.
- Infuse your celebration with African arts, fabrics and music, traditional or modern.