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Kwanzaa Facts: How to Celebrate the Week-Long Festival

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 Wednesday, Dec. 26, 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.

—This list was compiled with information from City News Service.

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Insider December 26, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Kwanzaa's patron saint was convicted for torturing two black women -- he stripped them naked, then whipped them with electric line cords, beat them with a karate baton and then finished by hot-branding them. Oh, but happy Kwanzaa -- really!
Marie Cunningham December 26, 2012 at 11:05 PM
This is not an attempt to promote any one holiday celebration over the other. However, as a person who was raised Catholic (I no longer affiliate myself with any religious organization), I recognize that many popes acted deplorably while serving as head of the Catholic Church. Best, Marie
90069 December 27, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Thanks Marie for some sanity in responding to Insider's unhinged comment. There is no "patron saint" of Kwanzaa.
WonderBoy December 27, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Never heard of Kwanzaa until I moved to LA 20 years ago. Nor, did I give a thought to it until I was curious/bored one Kwanza Eve years ago. Reads like bad juju to me. Take a closer look if you too get bored this Kwanzaa.
Insider December 27, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I'm not sure what is "unhinged" about the facts about Maulana Karenga. It was created commercially by Karenga, because he felt that secular blacks were left out during holiday celebrations. It is not a religious holiday.
me December 28, 2012 at 05:57 AM
unhinged is a new favorite word of 90069's
Greg T December 29, 2012 at 02:57 PM
...another example of a Caucasian-Lefty promoting African-Americanism...nothing to see or do here. The article probably made the staff feel better that they promoted a non-religious event to replaces a religious event for the additional purpose of promoting another example of how African some Americans are.

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