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EL Civics for ESL Students

Kwanzaa Lesson

EL Civics History and Government

Woman Wearing a Uwole and Lighting Candles in a Kinara
Woman Wearing a Uwole and Lighting Candles in a Kinara

Kwanzaa is a seven-day cultural festival that celebrates African American heritage.

It is celebrated from December 26 to January 1.

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga of United Slaves Organization in 1966.

It was offered at that time as an African American alternative to Christmas.

Recently, it has become acceptable for participants to celebrate Kwanzaa along with Christmas and Hannukah.

Kwanzaa Table
Kwanzaa Table

Kwanzaa is Swahili and means "first fruits."

The "Seven Principles of Kwanzaa" are:

1. Unity
2. Self-Determination
3. Collective Work and Responsibility
4. Cooperative Economics
5. Purpose
6. Creativity
7. Faith

These seven principles emphasize traditional African values.

Kwanzaa decorations include African art, colorful cloth, kinaras, and fresh fruits.

The Pan-African colors - red, black, and green - are common in Kwanzaa celebrations.

A Karamu feast is held on December 31. Families and friends get together to eat, listen to music, dance, pour libations and exchange gifts.


1. Kwanzaa is a Swahili word. Swahili is the native language of several countries in east Africa and is learned as a second language by many other people.

2. A kinara is a candle stick holder. Seven candles are put in the holder: three red, one black, and three green.

3. Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community, and culture.

4. Pan-African colors: red for the noble blood that unites all people of African ancestry, black for the people, green for the rich land of Africa.

5. The US government has issued two Kwanzaa stamps: one in 1997 and another in 2004.

6. During Kwanzaa people say Habari Gani, which means "What's the News?"

7. A uwole is a brightly colored article of clothing worn by women in Africa.

Quiz Questions

1. What is Kwanzaa?

2. When is Kwanzaa celebrated?

3. What is the first principle of Kwanzaa?

4. Who created Kwanzaa?

5. The Pan-African colors are red, black, and green. What does the red stand for?