Frequently Asked Questions About Kwanzaa

Who created Kwanzaa?
Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University in Long Beach created Kwanzaa in 1966.

What is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates family, community, and culture. It is a cultural holiday rather than a religious one. Kwanzaa celebrates and affirms African cultural roots and history. The name "Kwanzaa" means "first fruits" in Swahili.

When is it celebrated?
Kwanzaa is celebrated December 26-January 1.

How is it practiced?
Kwanzaa is celebrated each day during the period between Christmas and New Year's Day. The Seven Principles of Nguzo Saba are highlighted by lighting a candle for and reflecting upon each principle: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination, Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). Gatherings may be community-wide, church-based, or held in homes. Gifts may be exchanged, but the focus is on gifts that are hand-made or education-related, if purchased.

Should Christian churches celebrate Kwanzaa?
Since Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, all faith groups may participate. Because the focus of the celebration is on affirming African culture, values, and history there is no conflict with Christian churches observing the holiday, as many currently do.

What is required to celebrate the holiday?
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols that represent values and concepts that reinforce African culture and community building: mazao (the crops), mkeka (the mat), kinara (the candle holder), muhindi (the corn), mishumaa saba (the seven candles symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles), kikombe cha umoja (the unity cup) and zawadi (the gifts).

Why does Discipleship Ministries create materials to support Kwanzaa?
As more United Methodist churches celebrate Kwanzaa each year and find it to be a meaningful evangelistic tool and way of inviting the community to church, Discipleship Ministries sees the opportunity and the need to produce resources that are helpful for both church and community observances of Kwanzaa.

Categories: Lectionary Calendar, Preaching, Civil Observances, Kwanzaa