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Where did the holiday, Kwanzaa, originate?

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‘Tis the season for Kwanzaa! This winter holiday takes place December 26 through January 1 each year. Kwanzaa celebrates harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa. Where did Kwanzaa originate? Take a guess from the countries listed below and then scroll down to discover the origin of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa colors

The colors of Kwanzaa: black, red and green (Illustration credit: DmNdm,

Where Did Kwanzaa Begin?

a) The United States
b) Egypt
c) Kenya
d) Mozambique
e) South Africa

Colors of Kwanzaa

The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green. Black represents the color of the people of Africa. Red stands for the struggles of the African peoples and the blood they've shed. Green symbolizes the fertile land of Africa and hope.

Kwanzaa Principles

The holiday takes place over seven nights. Similar to Hanukkah, candles are lit every night of Kwanzaa. Each night represents a different principle, outlined below.

1. Unity
2. Self-determination
3. Collective work and responsibility
4. Cooperative economics
5. Purpose
6. Creativity
7. Faith

Traditional symbols of Kwanzaa

(Photo credit: DmNdm,

Kwanzaa Symbols

Similarly, each day of Kwanzaa is represented by a different symbol.

1. Crops like fruits, nuts and vegetables symbolizing work and harvest
2. A straw or cloth place mat representing history, culture and tradition
3. Ear of corn, standing for fertility and family
4. The seven candles, celebrating the sun and light
5. The candle holder, as a symbol of ancestry
6. A cup, representing unity
7. Gifts, rewarding accomplishments and commitments

Kwanzaa's Karamu Feast may feature soul food like collard greens and cornbread

Kwanzaa's Karamu feast may feature soul food like collard greens and cornbread (Photo credit: bhofack2,

Karamu Feast

Kwanzaa culminates in a traditional feast called Karamu, which is typically held on New Year's Eve. Presents are also given on this final night of the holiday, especially to children. Foods served at this celebratory meal vary from family to family and may include traditional dishes from various countries in Africa like Ghanaian groundnut stew or West Indian or South African curry dishes. Revelers may also serve African American soul foods like fried catfish, cornbread, sweet potato pie, and collard greens. Take a look at Kwanzaa dish suggestions from the Food Network or Fruits of the Harvest: Recipes to Celebrate Kwanzaa and Other Holidays, available from Amazon. 

Kwanzaa's Origin

Where did Kwanzaa originate? a) The United States

Although Kwanzaa is based on ancient and modern celebrations in Egypt and Southeastern Africa, the Kwanzaa holiday as we know it today was started in the United States. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University, Long Beach after the Watts Riots in Los Angeles. The goal of this holiday was to bring African Americans together as a community.

Learn More About Kwanzaa

Want to learn more about Kwanzaa? Read about the history of Kwanzaa on

Share the meaning of Kwanzaa with kids with Kwanzaa: 7 Principles, Celebration, Decorations, Traditions and Symbols and the other children's books below.

Test Your Travel Trivia Knowledge

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Where did Kwanzaa originate and what is the meaning of this holiday?

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About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. I’m really glad to know these facts about Kwanzaa! Thanks for sharing!

  2. yudith napitupulu says

    Harvest fruits, vegetables and etc, this is similar like harvest day in India. We called Onam. But we wearing white dress with gold color as combination to celebration.

  3. These are some interesting facts about Kwanzaa that I never knew. I always love to learn about other cultures and holidays.

  4. JAMES SINGER says

    FAKE made-up holiday created by a Black Extremist who was in prison.

    • Lol. That word… “fake”.

      You realize that all holidays share the same validity, right? And you realize Christmas is celebrating someone whose followers slaughtered millions in the quests to shove their religion down the throats of the world? So I mean, comparing one dude in prison to an entire cult following attempting to convert the world to Christianity because they felt that Jesus would love them more if they participated is a bit out there.

      I mean, the only meaning I get from your comment is “I’m a huge hillbilly who felt it necessary to try and propagate racist views on a blog comment section”. That about do it, James Singer?

    • Hey, James, you want to hear something amazing? ALL holidays are created by people. Also – because you strike me as this type – Christmas is NOT Christ’s birthday, nor is it Christian. Christmas is a holiday that was created when Christians co-opted the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice so that they could celebrate the birth of Christ without being persecuted. Please go away and stop polluting the internet with your filth.
      Kwanzaa is an amazing holiday. The tenets on which it’s founded are things that serve to better everyone and remind us all to be grateful. EXCELLENT read, Colleen!

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