How to celebrate Kwanzaa with kids
Wondering what is Kwanzaa and how you might help kids celebrate? Kwanzaa is a
Swahili word meaning "first fruits."Inspired by a centuries-old African harvest, Kwanzaa
is a uniquely African-American celebration established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga.
It's not a religious holiday, but an African American festival that honors the people of
African decent who live in America.
There are seven days of Kwanzaa, which starts on Dec. 26. Kwanzaa is a time when
African Americans unite (friends and family) and vow to work together, take
responsibility, support one another, create, and have faith in each other and their
dreams for the future. They feast, dance, sing and share stories celebrating their roots
and heritage remembering the traditions of all the African countries.
All the key ingredients to celebrate Kwanzaa in style, start with the Kinara (candle
holder with candles), above left. The set also includes the Mkeka(straw mat) and unity
cup, essential to the Kwanzaa celebrations, and information sheet about Kwanzaa.
If this is your first Kwanzaa celebration with a child, you'll find "My First Kwanzaa" by
Karen Katz, helpful. This guide provides useful pronunciation of the Swahili words, and
a clear explanation of the candles, gifts, crafts, fruits, and vegetables that are part of
the festivities. Below you'll find a run down of how celebrate Kwanzaa with your child,
including what happens on the seven days of Kwanzaa, decorations and essentials
for Kwanzaa, as well as activities you can do with your child.
Decorations and essentials for Kwanzaa
- Bendera (African American flag)
- Kinara: candle holder with room for seven candles (one for each day of Kwanza).
One black candle in the middle, three red candles and three green candles. To
start the celebrations of Kwanza, families light the black candle first, then
alternate red and green for each of seven nights.
- Mkeka: straw mat to place the Kinara and other
- Mazao: Fruits and vegetables (they stand for unity)
- Muhinid: Ears of corn (families place one ear of corn for each child in the family
on to the Mkeka)
- Kikombe cha umoja: Unity Cup (everyone sips from it to symbolize togetherness)
What happens on the seven days of Kwanzaa:
Starting December 26, families light one of seven candles each night.
- Day One: Umoja (unity: helping each other)
- Day Two: Kujichaguilia (self determination)
- Day Three: Ujima (working together, taking responsibility)
- Day Four: Ujamaa (building and supporting African American businesses)
- Day Five: Nia (purpose to maintain dignity; have a reason for living)
- Day Six: kuumba (creativity using the mind and hands for music, dance and the
arts and creating). Feast on the sixth night (December 31)
- Day Seven: Imani (faith) having faith in each other and our dream, gift giving
Kwanzaa and activities you can do with your child
Kuumba is the Swahili word for creativity and Kwanzaa is a time for creativity with kids!
So dance and sing and share stories. After you've read a story to explain what
happens on the seven days of Kwanzaa, you'll want to share some other Kwanzaa
activities with the kids. Here are activities for Kwanzaa you can do with kids:
- Make an "Ears of Corn: Cereal Treat: Each ear of corn represents a child in the
family. Celebrate the children of Kwanzaa and the harvest by making corn husk
cereal treats, upper right. Try Kix cereal instead of rice, add a few dried fruits
and make corn husks with fruit rollups.
- Keep kids entertained with the Kwanzaa Sticker Activity book, right.
- Have a Kwanza jewelry party and string African beads.
- Drum to a different beat. Make your own percussion instruments, such as a rain
stick or get out a bongo drum and explore rhythmic sounds. Listen to South
African Folk music, available online, left.
- Play Mancala! This ancient came, also called "Adi," originated in Pharaonic Egypt
and is extremely popular throughout Africa. It's a simple game that's challengin
for adults and children alike.
- Here are more Kwanzaa activities you can do with kids.
Do you have a fun way to celebrate a Kwanzaa party with kids? We'd love a visit on
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