In 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University at Long Beach, planned a celebration known as Kwanzaa to help African-Americans honor the pride of their past and their strong family relationships.
Kwanzaa, meaning "first fruits of the harvest," celebrates African-American heritage, pride, community, family, and culture in a seven-day festival that begins December 26 and lasts through January 1. Each day is dedicated to the Nguzo Saba, or "seven principles."
Families begin the celebration of Kwanzaa by placing a candleholder (kinara) with seven candles (mishumaa saba) atop a straw mat (mkeka) on a table. A candle is lit on each day of the celebration. The center candle is black for the color of the African-American people; three red candles symbolize struggle; and three green candles symbolize hopes. The family also has a basket of fruit and vegetables, an ear of corn for each child, a cup, and gifts to be opened on December 31.
During the celebration, there's a feast in which people eat collard greens for prosperity and black-eyed peas for good luck, along with cornbread, fried chicken, baked catfish, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, rice pudding, and carrot cake.
Dr. Karenga celebrated the first Kwanzaa with a few friends. Today, Kwanzaa is recognized by millions throughout the United States and the world.
Whether you have a small family gathering or celebrate Kwanzaa with a large group, you'll find everything you need to put together an African-inspired menu at your local
Guide to the seven days of seven principles developed by Dr. Karenga: