The holidays are the best time of the year, and the weeks leading up to the winter break are the perfect time to learn about customs and traditions both at home and around the world!
When I first came to America from the United Kingdom, I had no knowledge of Kwanzaa, so I embarked on learning about this holiday so I could teach it to my students. I also wanted to be able to make something with my students that would deepen their understanding of the celebration and link to the strands of the holiday on a personal level.
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Two of my favorite books are below. I love ‘My First Kwanzaa’ as a simple way for young children to get acquainted with Kwanzaa.
This book teaches about the traditions of the holiday during the winter.
Kwanzaa is a celebration of African-American culture and heritage and is celebrated from December 26 through January 1. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Korenga in 1966. The name Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase that means “first fruits of the harvest”. Kwanzaa is celebrated by ceremonies throughout the week. Many people celebrate by decorating their home in African art as well as the traditional Kwanzaa colors of green, black, and red. They may also wear traditional African clothing. Women may wear a colorful wrap called a kaftan. Men may wear a colorful shirt called a dashiki and a hat called a kufi.
Each day of Kwanzaa celebrates a different facet of the Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles. Those principles are:
ujima (collective work and responsibility),
ujamaa (cooperative economics),
nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity)
For younger learners I like to focus on the symbols and meanings of Kwanzaa. One of my favorite holiday projects is to create a unity cup glyph, the umoja. We talk about special plates we have at home that we put out when people visit, and the special times that families get together, and about how the Umoja is a special cup that people share at Kwanzaa to feel connected and a sense of belonging. Then we use the glyph key to create out own unity cups, or we get creative and decorate them in unique ways.