Kwanzaa is a time for families and communities to come together to remember the past and to celebrate African American culture.
The celebration begins when the leader asks everyone the official question, "Habari Gani?" (What's happening?). The group responds with the principle for the day.
Created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates history, values, family, community and culture. The ideas and concepts of Kwanzaa are expressed in the Swahili language, one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa. The seven principles which form its core were drawn from communitarian values found throughout the African continent. These principles are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). Kwanzaa gets its name from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza” and is rooted in first fruit celebrations which are found in cultures throughout Africa both in ancient and modern times.
The History of Kwanzaa
Supervisory Museum Curator of the African Diaspora, Joanne T. Hyppolite, Ph.D., gives a deeper look behind the exhibit, Cultural Expressions.
One of the great things about Kwanzaa is the chance to be expressive and creative. Below are a list of activities that families can do together to celebrate Kwanzaa. Be sure to check our blog post each day during Kwanzaa to see activities related to that day's principle.
Adinkra Coloring Pages
Adinkra symbols originated in Ghana with the Akan people. The symbols are used to pass on traditional wisdom. These Adinkra coloring pages are a great way to learn more about some of these symbols.
Learning about African American history and culture and spending time with family are two of the most important aspects of Kwanzaa. This reading list lets families do both at the same time.
Each day during the week of Kwanzaa, we will add an activity that relates to that day's principle.
Children's Kwanzaa Videos
Celebrate Kwanzaa each day with a short, educational video about a Kwanzaa principle and story from the NMAAHC collection! Each video is designed to be paired with the fun activities, coloring pages and recommended books above.
NMAAHC Kids Introduction to Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa with NMAAHC Kids: UMOJA
Kwanzaa with NMAAHC Kids: KUJICHAGULIA
Kwanzaa with NMAAHC Kids: UJIMA
Kwanzaa with NMAAHC Kids: UJAMAA
Kwanzaa with NMAAHC Kids: NIA
Kwanzaa with NMAAHC Kids: KUUMBA
Kwanzaa with NMAAHC Kids: IMANI
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa
These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning "common". Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles. (Photo by Ann E. Zelle/Getty Images)
Around the Table
Meals play a large part in the celebration of Kwanzaa. Throughout the week, favorite African-American dishes, as well as traditional African, Caribbean, and South American recipes, are on many menus. Renowned author and culinary historian Jessica B. Harris shares some suggestions on cooking and celebrating throughout the week.
On December 31, the sixth day of Kwanzaa, there is a large feast called Karamu. Just like other Kwanzaa meals, any dish can be included as part of the Karamu, and below we have some ideas from our Sweet Home Café Cookbook.