Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1. In response to the commercialism of Christmas, Dr. Maulana Karenga (professor and chairman of Africana studies at California State University, Long Beach) created the holiday in 1966 as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home. He combined elements of different harvest celebrations to form the basis of Kwanzaa.
“Kwanzaa’s origins are both ancient and modern and both sources serve to urge us to constantly strive and struggle to be ourselves and free ourselves, to live good lives and to bring forth the best of what it means to be African and human as both a personal and social practice,” Karenga said in last year’s annual founder message.
Each family enhances celebrating Kwanzaa in their unique way, but the holiday typically involves songs, dancing, storytelling, poetry and a large feast (Karamu) on December 31. Each night is dedicated to discussing one of the seven principles and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara. Below is a list of children’s books that highlight the magnificence of the holiday!
This book is a warm introduction for the little ones to the seven days of Kwanzaa. The holiday celebrates the importance of family, friends and community, which is all tackled by author and illustrator Karen Katz in her explanation of Kwanzaa traditions.
Li’l Rabbit’s journey to ensure the celebration of Kwanzaa hits close to home. Granna Rabbit is sick, so changes have to be made. His favorite part of Kwanzaa is Karamu , so he decides to find a special treat for Granna Rabbit so she can still celebrate. Fit for the whole family, follow Li’l Rabbit as he meets new friends while in the search of the perfect treat.
Learn more about Kwanzaa by diving into the story of Kevin’s family and how he plays a key role in continuing traditions. Whether it’s helping decorate the table, lighting candles or learning new words, Kevin’s special bond with his family cements the importance of his heritage. On the sixth day, the entire family rejoices with a feast and dancing!
The Sound of Kwanzaa guides readers through the holiday’s seven principles by sound. Invigorated by lively verse and colorful illustrations, readers are encouraged to groove along as they discover what Kwanzaa is all about.
Kayla is worried her big brother Khari won’t make it home in time for Kwanzaa, her favorite time of year. A heavy snowstorm throws the celebration out of certainty, but along the way, readers will learn about the holiday’s traditions and practices that make it so special.
Angela Shelf Medearis’ tale tells the story of seven brothers who live in an African village. They make their family miserable because they constantly fight. The story takes a sudden turn when their father dies and leaves an ultimatum. If the brothers don’t make gold out of sevens spools of thread by sundown, they will have to leave their home. Guided by the seven principles of Kwanzaa, the boys must demonstrate they can pull together for the good of the community and themselves.
What happens when a family gets together to celebrate Kwanzaa and their beloved pet cat goes missing? “Celebrate Kwanzaa with Boots and her Kittens” (available in English or Spanish) tells the story of how the family dedicates the seven days to finding their cat and teaches about the seven principles along the way. Finally, on the last day, the family discovers a big surprise.