Kwanzaa's name comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which mean first fruits. Kwanzaa is modeled after other "first fruits" celebrations in southern Africa.
Each day of Kwanzaa celebrates a different facet of the Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles. Those principles are: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith). According to Karenga, Kwanzaa is not meant to be an alternative to Christmas.
Common Traditions: People celebrating Kwanzaa often place corn, a candleholder known as a kinara, a communal cup, and a black, red and green flag on a decorative mat, or mkeka.
The kinara holds seven candles: three red, three green, and one black. The black candle is lit on the first day of Kwanzaa and is meant to represent the holiday's celebrants.
Drumming, dance and communal meals and drinks as well as lighting the kinara are often incorporated into Kwanzaa ceremonies. During the holiday, celebrants often greet others with "Habari gani?" or "Whas the news?" Celebrants then answer with the day's principle. Typically, gifts are given only to children during this time.
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