All About Kwanzaa

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12119

Most holidays celebrate an historical event or figure, especially the December ones. Kwanzaa is unique because it celebrates a particular culture and heritage. Learn the Kwanzaa facts and dance moves!


World Cultures

Social Studies
learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What does the Hanukkah menorah have in common with Kwanzaa’s kinara? How are the two candleholders different?

In the previous December Holidays lessons, found under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar, you learned about two important holidays celebrated in December in the United States.

Tell your teacher or parent at least two facts you have learned about Christmas and Hanukkah.

In this lesson, you will learn about another important December holiday, Kwanzaa.

What do you think the purpose of Kwanzaa is? Tell your teacher or parent.

Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966. He thought a holiday was needed to celebrate African-American culture and heritage. Kwanzaa is a multi-day celebration, celebrated every year from December 26 to January 1. Kwanzaa is mostly celebrated in the United States, although it is sometimes celebrated by Africans in other countries, too.

Like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa is celebrated by lighting candles each night. The candles are placed in a candleholder called the kinara. The kinara has seven candles, one for each day of Kwanzaa. Each candle represents one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The seven principles teach people how to live a good life. You will learn each of the seven principles in the Got It? section of this lesson. A black candle is placed in the center of the kinara. Three green candles are placed on the right side of the black candle and three red candles are placed on the left side of the black candle.

Look at the image below. Tell your teacher or parent what items are surrounding the kinara in the picture:

Each night, when the kinara is brought out, it is placed on a decorative mat. The kinara is surrounded with corn and other vegetables to represent crops. A cup is also placed next to the kinara. On some nights, families will share a drink from the cup. Each night of Kwanzaa, a new candle is lit.

  • First, the black candle is lit.
  • On the second night, the farthest red candle is lit.
  • On the third night, the farthest green candle is lit.
  • Then, it rotates betweenred and green candles until all the candles are lit.
  • Each night of Kwanzaa, children are given small gifts.
  • The festivities usually conclude with a large feast, music, and dancing.

To learn about how families celebrate Kwanzaa, you will watch Sesame Street: Kwanzaa. As you watch the video, discuss the following questions with your teacher or parent:

  • What is the purpose of the seven principles of Kwanzaa?
  • How does the family in the video celebrate Kwanzaa together?
  • What are the children given at the end of the celebration?

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You have learned a lot about three important holidays celebrated in December. Based on what you have learned, discuss the following questions:

  • How are Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa similar?
  • How are Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa different?
  • Which of the traditions associated with each holiday do you find most interesting?
  • Which holiday(s) do you celebrate with your family?

When you are finished discussing the questions, move on to the Go! section to learn more about the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

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