Holiday season for African Americans actually start on December 26th with the harvest time ritual known as Kwanzaa. The holiday originated in 1960s, during the civil rights movement to commemorate African heritage of African Americans who use Swahili language. It lasts for a week. There are family gatherings, gifts are exchanges and a series of black, red and green candles are lighted to symbolize the seven basic values defined for the African Americans family life - Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Creativity, Faith, Purpose, Self-determination, and Unity.
Black, red and green are the colors of the festival and paper
decorations in these colors along with handmade evergreen Kwanzaa Bush
ornaments are used to decorate houses for Kwanzaa. Children are taught
about their heritage and events for them are organized to display their
artwork or to help them connect with their past. Photographs of the
current generation are also set up. The traditional ceremonial table
setting consists of an ear of corn for each child and a carved and
decorated unity cup to be used for the toasts each evening. For the
seven nights, all the family members gather to light the seven holed
candleholder or Kinara.
Children light the black candle in the center on the first night to
symbolize Unity and then, they are explained the meaning of the word.
Some other family member lights the red candle on the second night it
symbolizes Self Determination. Thus, seven candles are lit in seven
nights to symbolize corresponding values. After lighting the candles,
everybody drinks from the unity cup. On 31st of December, children
receive gifts such as books and a heritage symbol such as an African
artifact. There is a feast that consists of African American foods and
plenty of music to mark the end of the festival. After the feast,
everybody rises and recommit themselves to the seven principles of
Kwanzaa and wish each other happiness. The host wishes everybody that at
the end of the next year, all the members again join each other in
larger numbers and attain greater achievements.
Read about Christmas and its holiday traditions in American Africa and American African Christmas customs.