Kwanzaa was designed as a non-religious holiday for African-Americans.
It promotes coming together with others to better oneself, one’s family, and one’s community.
For seven days, beginning on December 26, celebrants light a candle on the menorah-like kinara and honor one of the principles of the holiday: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).
Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by Ron Karenga while a student at the University of California, Los Angeles.
He gave the holiday’s ritual components Swahili names.
“I could not have predicted the success of Kwanzaa,” he said in an interview, “but I certainly wanted it to grow and be something beautiful.” The Swahili word kwanza (with one “a”) means “first.”
Maulana Karenga of the US Organization created Kwanzaa in 1966 as the first specifically African American holiday.
The celebration has its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s.