Kwanzaa Traditions With Children


Shopping, giving gifts, and spending time together as a family are all part of the holidays–but for many African American families, the holiday season includes Kwanzaa.

A celebration of family, community, and culture, Kwanzaa is a time for African American families to honor their heritage. The word Kwanzaa is derived from a Swahili phrase which translates to “first fruits.” Established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the cultural holiday is meant to restore and reaffirm African roots.The non-religious cultural holiday begins the day after Christmas and lasts until January 1st, ending with a feast called the karamu and the exchange of gifts.

Habari Gani?

Each day of Kwanzaa, people greet each other with “habari gani?” which means, “what’s the news?” The reply is one of the seven principles that Kwanzaa centers around, called the Nguzo Saba.


The Nguzo Saba from The Official Kwanzaa Website

Celebrating Kwnazaa doesn’t have to be hard. You’ll need:

  • a mkeka (mat): Here’s one you can make with the kids!
  • a kinara – candle holder
  • your Mishumaa Saba– candles. The candle in the center of your kinara should be black, with red and green candles alternating each day. Here’s another fun craft you can make at home. 
  • a kikombe– unity cup
  • your Muhindi– ears of corn. You’ll need one to represent each child in your family
  • some Mazao– fruits and vegetables, symbolizing the harvest and collective labor
  • and Zawadi--the gifts!

Decorate your house with red (for the struggle), black (for the people), and green (future and hope), and invite friends and family over for a karamu!

See how Sesame Street celebrates Kwanzaa.

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Tiffani is the wife and mom behind MyMommyVents, co-creator of The Mommy Conference, and co-founder of the digital collective Sisterhued. Her writing and parenting tips have been seen on The Washington Post, Mommy Noire, Yahoo Parenting, and Fit Pregnancy.
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  1. December 8, 2014 / 4:10 pm

    My family is Jewish, so we celebrate Chanukah. I was trying to explain Kwanzaa to my 5 year old the other day and didn’t do a very good job–thanks for the help!

    • tiffani
      December 8, 2014 / 5:42 pm

      Jessica, I feel like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa have similar ideals — we’re all trying to honor our heritage and the sacrifices others have made for us. You can explain to your daughter that the kwanzaa kinara is kind of like the menorah. Hope the post helps!

  2. December 8, 2014 / 4:49 pm

    Really nice post. I haven’t celebrated Kwanzaa in years, makes me want to get back into the tradition!

    • tiffani
      December 8, 2014 / 5:44 pm

      Thanks for stopping by! I didn’t celebrate for years until my sons were born. Now it’s something we look forward to as a family.

  3. December 8, 2014 / 5:11 pm

    Gosh I haven’t thought about Kwanzaa in forever. We didn’t grow up celebrating Kwanzaa in our family. I think I will start teaching my girls about Kwanzaa this year. I love the principles and I want them to be well rounded.

    • tiffani
      December 8, 2014 / 5:46 pm

      MJ, I think celebrating with your children makes Kwanzaa even more special! We make it a point to attend the Kwanzaa programs in the area as a family.

  4. December 8, 2014 / 6:54 pm

    Great post! I’ve always loved Kwanzaa and will definitely be teaching about baby about it in the future.

    • tiffani
      December 24, 2014 / 11:55 am

      That’s awesome! I’m sure she’ll be interested and love it as much as you do.

  5. December 8, 2014 / 9:21 pm

    My family used to celebrate Kwanzaa years ago. Honestly, I don’t know what happened. I guess now that I have my own family I can start it up again. Thanks for the tips 🙂

    • tiffani
      December 24, 2014 / 11:56 am

      It’s great to celebrate with family and friends.

  6. December 9, 2014 / 3:58 am

    I definitely wanted to look into the meaning behind Kwanzaa because I have not celebrated since I was a child. Thank you for this.

    • tiffani
      December 24, 2014 / 11:57 am

      Thanks Shaniqua! Do you think you’ll celebrate with your family?

  7. December 9, 2014 / 3:21 pm

    This is a great post about Kwanzaa. I work with BMWK and we are doing a post on this Holiday. Very informative and something I might implement in my own home soon.

    • tiffani
      December 24, 2014 / 11:54 am

      Bernetta, it’s a great way to reflect on our heritage and embrace family.

  8. December 9, 2014 / 3:26 pm

    Kwanzaa’s principles are ones that I have always appreciated and celebrating it is always on my list but I never quite get it in fully but I do try to socially share the days and their meanings. I am hoping to one year be able to really make a full event of it.

    • tiffani
      December 24, 2014 / 12:00 pm

      I love that you share the principles! There are lots of events in the community where everyone can celebrate together.

  9. December 9, 2014 / 5:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I don’t know much about Kwanzaa but I’ve always been interested in learning more about celebrating it. I love the principles and I will be pinning this article so I can start planning early to celebrate next year. Thanks for sharing.

    • tiffani
      December 24, 2014 / 12:01 pm

      Im glad to hear! I’m sure you’ll enjoy celebrating with your family.

  10. December 17, 2014 / 3:42 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing Tiffani! I honestly didn’t know about Kwanzaa, but I’m thankful that you took the time to outline what each day means and the materials needed. I like the principles of Kwanzaa! Thanks for your support! xx! -Em #BLMGirls

    • tiffani
      December 24, 2014 / 12:02 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Emerald! Do you think you’ll celebrate this year?

  11. December 27, 2014 / 1:53 pm

    I decided to celebrate late this year, but you gave me a good foundation to build on. Thanks for this post.

    • tiffani
      January 2, 2015 / 12:50 pm

      Thanks for reading, Ayesha!

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