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Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that celebrates African heritage and identity. The name comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which translates to “first fruits,” and the holiday is based on traditional African harvest festivals. Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, created IN 1966. It is practiced by Africans of all religious faiths who come together based on the rich, ancient and varied common ground of their Africanness.”

Kwanzaa is observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. The seven days correspond to the Seven Principles, or Nguzo Saba. Seven candles are lighted during Kwanzaa, and seven symbols are placed around the home.

The Nguzo Saba are:

• umoja (unity) — to strive for and maintain unity within the family, community, nation and race
• kujichagulia (self-determination) — to define, create and speak for ourselves
• ujima (collective work and responsibility) — to build and maintain community and to solve the community problems together
• ujamaa (cooperative economics) — to build and maintain businesses and profit from them together as a community
• nia (purpose) — to build and develop the community in order to restore the members to their traditional greatness
• kuumba (creativity) — to do as much as possible to leave the community better, more beautiful, and beneficial than initially inherited
• imani (faith) — to completely believe in the people within the community, parents, teachers and leaders, and the righteousness and victory of the struggle

The seven Kwanzaa symbols that are placed around the home represent African cultural values that contribute to community building and reinforcement.