Fun holiday fact of the day: did you know that Kwanzaa was founded by a Marylander? 

From December 26 to January 1, families across the world celebrate Kwanzaa, a 7-day holiday of the harvest. It was founded 50 years ago in 1966 by Marylander Dr. Maulana Karenga. He wanted to give African Americans a sense of connection to each other by instituting a celebration of their common African heritage.

Kwanzaa was founded to reinforce African Americans’ common bond to each other and to celebrate African heritage and culture. Fifty years later, the holiday still provides an important focal point for African Americans to celebrate family, community, culture and traditional values.” said Roni Jolley, Director of Education at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum.

Harvest festivals in Africa date back to ancient Egypt and are still celebrated in contemporary societies. “Kwanzaa” comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” meaning “first fruits.”

Seven principles, or the Nguzu Saba, form the framework of Kwanzaa, and each day of the holiday honors a different principle. They are Umoja (“Unity”), Kujichagulia (“Self-Determination”), Ujima (“Collective Work and Responsibility”), Ujamaa (“Cooperative Economics”), Nia (“Purpose”), Kuumba (“Creativity”), and Imani (“Faith”).

Each of the principles is honored by a candle in a Kinara. Similar to a menorah and Hanukkah traditions, a new candle is lit on the Kinara each day during the 7-day celebration of Kwanzaa. The center black candle is lit first, and the lighting then proceeds from left to right, the new candle being lit corresponding to the principle of that day.

You can celebrate Kwanzaa with the kids by creating your very own watercolor Kinara!

celebrating kwanzaa - (cool) progeny

make your own watercolor kinara art

materials

  • watercolor paper or postcards
  • scissors
  • watercolor paints
  • paintbrush
  • glue

instructions

Since candles on the Kinara are red, green, and black, you’ll want to cut your watercolor paper into five pieces. One piece should be postcard size. The other pieces can be smaller.

Using the watercolors, paint the background for your Kinara on the postcard size. We used blues and purples.

Paint one of your smaller pieces green, another piece red, another piece black, and a fourth piece orange.

After your paint dries, cut rectangle strips from each of your smaller pieces to make candles and the Kinara itself. Cut flame shapes from the orange as well.

Glue to your background.

celebrating kwanzaa - (cool) progeny

celebrate kwanzaa at the reginald f. lewis museum

If you’re looking for family-friendly celebrations in the area, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum marks the momentous 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa with on Friday, December 30th from 12-4pm. Join them for a fun day of activities including Sankofa Dance Theater, crafts led by artist Sallah Jenkins, and an African marketplace. The event culminates the museum’s holiday programs celebrating Nia (“Purpose”). $5 special admission for the event! MORE