If you’re anything like me, then you know nothing about Kwanzaa, and at the time when I agreed to write this article, neither did I. I knew the bare basics. I knew it was a holiday around Christmas that people celebrated, but I didn’t know why, when, or how they celebrated. But, I volunteered to write this article so I could learn about the holiday and how people celebrated it. Now, I can share that history with you while giving you gift ideas for your friends that celebrate Kwanzaa.
A uniquely American holiday rooted in African American and Pan-African history, Kwanzaa celebrates history, values, family, community, and culture. Created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga during the fracturing of the Civil Rights Movement, when hopelessness began to set in. Karenga researched the “First Fruits” or harvest festivals of various African cultures, he then began combining them to create Kwanzaa.
He pulled ideas from all nations to create the ideas and concepts of Kwanzaa, so it is celebrated in Swahili because Swahili is the most frequently spoken language in Africa. Each night, families light a candle to celebrate one of the seven main principles of Kwanzaa, which come from the communitarian values found throughout the continent.
Kwanzaa is a time when families and communities come together to celebrate and affirm their bonds, honor their ancestors and celebrate their culture. Each day a candle is lit to highlight the principle of that day and various activities like African drumming and reciting original poetry are also done throughout the day. To learn more about the activities of the day, see my reference material here.
“To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.”The Seven principles of kwanzaa. National Museum of African American History and Culture
“To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.”The Seven principles of kwanzaa. National Museum of African American History and Culture
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
“To build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together.”The Seven principles of kwanzaa. National Museum of African American History and Culture
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
“To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.”The Seven principles of kwanzaa. National Museum of African American History and Culture
“To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.”The Seven principles of kwanzaa. National Museum of African American History and Culture
“To do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.”The Seven principles of kwanzaa. National Museum of African American History and Culture
“To believe with all our hearts in our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.”The Seven principles of kwanzaa. National Museum of African American History and Culture
Now, how does this help with your Kwanzaa shopping? Knowing the Kwanzaa principles will give you insight into more thoughtful gift-giving. The celebration of Kwanzaa is a celebration of family and heritage, so when considering your gifts, consider the principles celebrated. Also, remember that handcrafting gifts is an excellent way to celebrate the traditions and heritage of those celebrating Kwanzaa, whether they’re your family or friends. It’s an excellent way to demonstrate your care and respect for their traditions.
- Kinara (a candle holder) – signifying unity, self-determination, responsibility, creativity, etc a wooden candleholder is one way to DIY a Kwanzaa gift while pairing it with a symbolic Kwanzaa candle.
- Quilts (or Tapestry) – With the ability to display many tales through its pictures, a quilt is the perfect representation of non-traditional art. A weaving of the legends and stories of Kwanzaa into something beautiful, and heartfelt.
- Scrapbook / Photo Album – filled with stories and memories, a scrapbook or photo album is a wonderful way to celebrate the history and values of the family that Kwanzaa celebrates.
Whether the gift is bought or made, what’s important is that it was given with love and honor to African heritage. To see more of my references and learn more about DIY gifting ideas click here.