The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili.
Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture.
An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31
Excerpt from Kwanzaa - from the History Channel
Every December 26th, the holiday of Kwanzaa begins. Kwanzaa is rooted in African celebrations of harvest, but its formal origin is surprisingly recent. The holiday was started by Maulana Karenga, a professor in California, in 1966. Dr. Karenga wanted African Americans “to feel good about themselves and to have something that they could connect to, to make their lives better,” Dr. Linda Humes, an educator.