Kwanzaa Traditions with Children

Eliza Clark
December 23, 2014

At this dark time of year, we can't get enough of celebrating light. Friday will mark the beginning of Kwanzaa, another occasion for bringing families together by candlelight.

Our focus on the creation and nurturing of family rituals this month makes us especially interested in the origins of the modern celebration of Kwanzaa. Civil rights activist Dr. Maulana Karenga conceived of  Kwanzaa in 1966 as a celebration of African heritage. The seven days of Kwanzaa are based on seven principles called Nguzo Saba: Umoja (unity); Kujichagulia (self-determination); Ujima (responsibility); Ujamaa (purpose); Kuumba (creativity); and Imani (faith). 

For the youngest children, these ideas and the rituals that surround them are beautifully explained in Karen Katz's My First Kwanzaa. For parents of any faith or heritage, the holiday reminds of how powerfully traditions, whether ancient or of more recent vintage, can bind families and their communities together.

From the Parents

  • Kristen Mansharamani

    I think this is such an important idea. "Light" is a theme that runs through so many holidays in very diverse cultures around the world. For next year, if you are recognizing different traditions at home, remember also Diwali (predominately India) and Eid (Muslim countries). At Torit Language Center Montessori, we have a week long curriculum for each of five holidays for our 3 year olds through six year olds. We draw parallels and similarities among traditions across Diwali, Eid, Hannukah, Christmas, and Chinese New Year. We celebrate with art, food, clothing, and traditional decorations and celebrations for those holidays. The internet has a wealth of resources. Even introducing the "vocabulary" of other holidays paired with one little project at home is a great thing.

    over a year ago


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