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Time4Learning Demos

Kwanzaa Unit Study

By: Andrea Dillon 
*This post contains affiliate links. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.


Kwanzaa is a secular cultural celebration of African heritage, community, and culture that starts on December 26th and ends on January 1st. While this might not be a holiday that you celebrate in your family, you can take time to learn more about this celebration that focuses on family life, unity, and ancestry with us below.

Kwanzaa History Kwanzaa Meaning Kwanzaa Traditions
Kwanzaa Crafts Kwanzaa Books



Kwanzaa History

Kwanzaa was started by professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Dr. Maulana Karenga,  in 1966.






Kwanzaa Meaning

Kwanzaa is based on African harvest festivals and focuses on family life, unity, and ancestry. Kwanzaa is a Swahili word meaning is “first” in celebration of the first fruits of the harvest.

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa that are celebrated over the days of Kwanzaa.

Principle In English  Principle In Swahili
Unity  Umoja
Self-Determination Kujichagulia
Collective Work and Responsibility Ujima
Cooperative Economics Ujamaa
Purpose Nia
Creativity Kuumba
Faith  Imani







Kwanzaa Traditions

Kwanzaa is represented with three colors (red, black, and green) and seven symbols.

Symbol In English  Symbol In Swahili Meaning 
The Crops Mazao Celebrating harvest and the fruits of labor
The Mat Mkeka Tradition and history
The Candle Holder Kinara Roots and culture
The Corn Muhindi Children and the future
The Seven Candles Mishumaa Saba The seven principles
The Unity Cup Kikombe cha Umoja Unity among people
The Gifts Zawadi The labor of love and commitment

Kwanzaa starts on December 26th, with a central symbol being a special candelabra called the kinara, which holds one black, three green, and three red candles. The candles are lit in order until all seven are burned on the final day.  

The central theme of Kwanzaa is the coming together of family and community and passing down traditions.





Kwanzaa Crafts

Like all holidays, families enjoy creating crafts to celebrate. Many families use these crafts to help their children understand the symbols of Kwanzaa and learn about the history and culture. Use the resources below to learn more about some of these craft ideas.



Kwanzaa Crafts: Gifts and Decorations for a Meaningful and Festive Celebration

Provides instructions for making centerpieces, wreaths, clothing, bookmarks, cross-stitch, napkin rings, notecards, gift bags, and T-shirts, and demonstrates special decorative techniques.




All New Crafts for Kwanzaa

22 fun projects for kids help them learn about Kwanzaa.






Kwanzaa Books

Books are great additions to any holiday celebration. Here are a few of our favorite Kwanzaa books to try.

Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa

“The story of Li’l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa—coming together to help others. Donna L. Washington’s story, with art from Shane W. Evans (Chocolate Me!), provides a fun introduction to the holiday.”





Together for Kwanzaa

“Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.”



Kevin’s Kwanzaa

“Kevin’s family is celebrating the seven days of Kwanzaa! Kevin helps his mom decorate the Kwanzaa table. They light candles with Grandma and Grandpa and learn a special word each day. They talk about working together and solving problems. On the sixth day, everyone eats and dances at a big feast!”




My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa

“Kwanzaa traces its origins to the American Civil Rights era. Critical thinking questions and fast facts prompt young readers to engage with this fun narrative and learn all about Kwanzaa.”




Let’s Celebrate Kwanzaa!

“Kwanzaa is often misunderstood or assumed to be a religious holiday, but through the examples in this book it becomes apparent why all Africans (at home and abroad), regardless of religion, tribe or political stance can benefit from acknowledging, applying and teaching the next generation about the seven principles of Kwanzaa.”



My First Kwanzaa

“During the seven days of Kwanzaa, we celebrate the importance of family, friends, and community. This warm and lively introduction to a very special holiday will help even the youngest children join in! Author and illustrator Karen Katz’s wonderful series of picture books for the very young offer a simple and fun way to get familiar with the traditions of holiday celebrations from different cultures.”






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