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Celebrates Kwanzaa


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Countries that Celebrate Kwanzaa 2024

One of the biggest misconceptions about Kwanzaa is that the holiday started in Africa.

It’s easy to understand why, though.

Kwanzaa actually started in 1966 in the United States as a way to inspire, educate, and bring together African-Americans.

After watching the destructive race riots in Watts, Calif., Maulana Karenga, who taught at University of California Long Beach, came up with what he hoped would be a week of positive activities and opportunities for reflection for his fellow American citizens. The goal of the holiday which runs Dec. 26-Jan. 1 was to instill pride, empowerment, and a focus on character.

Karenga modeled the holiday after a variety of traditional fruit-focused cultural festivals in various African nations, and created seven principles of values, including unity, self-determination, creativity, and faith. Participants may sing, perform music, eat, and exchange hand-made or educational gifts.

He was clear that the holiday must stay non-political and non-religious, and must be open to “Africans of all faiths,” including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Black Hebrews, and others. He also emphasized that non-Blacks could celebrate if they wanted to participate, comparing it to non-Mexicans taking part in commemorating Cinco de Mayo.

Over the years, word spread about Kwanzaa in the U.S., starting with U.S. territories with African roots such as the Virgin Islands. It also began to be celebrated in countries in the Caribbean and South America. Some African countries celebrated it, and today it is celebrated around the world.

National Geographic reports that the number of people who celebrate Kwanzaa could range between 500,000 to 12 million. But a 2019 study showed that only 2.9 percent of those who celebrate any winter holiday plan to celebrate Kwanzaa, as opposed to Christmas or Hanukah.

Countries that celebrate include Jamaica, Brazil, France, Great Britain, and Canada. Some of the European nations either have a presence of African immigrants or a colonial past that included African territories.

Along with acknowledging the seven pillars of Kwanzaa over seven days, some families like to celebrate by learning about other African cultures and cooking traditional food from different nations. The sixth day, celebrated on Dec. 31, also includes Karamu, a feast, where it’s a perfect time to try these recipes out.

Kwanzaa is receiving more attention, including annual salutes from world leaders. The communities of Toronto and Brampton in Canada have even approved annual proclamations honoring the holiday and those who celebrate.

  • As Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday rather than a geographical one, it is likely also celebrated at a local or personal level in additional countries all over the world.

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