Kwanzaa, first celebrated during the peak of the ‘60s Black Liberation Movement, is an African American and Pan-African holiday focused on affirming familial, communal and cultural ties.
Like other December holidays, Kwanzaa incorporates gift giving into its week-long festivities. But what sets Kwanzaa apart is how the traditional rules of gift giving are used to further the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles the holiday’s seven candles represent: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
On the holiday’s last day, Jan, 1, children are given gifts known as Zawadi, a symbol of their parents love and commitment. However, unlike other holiday gifts the Zawadi traditionally must meet certain criteria. They must include a book and heritage symbol. The book emphasizes the long-standing values and tradition of learning in the African community, while the heritage symbol reflects the cross-generational commitment to maintaining African tradition.
Along with the book and heritage symbol, other handmade or artistic gifts like beaded jewelry, baskets and textiles are common during Kwanzaa as they reflect Kuumba and Nia, creativity and purpose. Also popular are gifts purchased at black-owned and -operated businesses as they promote Ujamaa, cooperative economics.
In every way, Kwanzaa centers culture and community as fundamental to all people’s identity. Even in children’s gifts, the celebration’s participants aim to unify and uplift all in the community for the betterment of the whole. These gift giving rules are just part of a decades-old tradition, there is much more you should know about Kwanzaa.