1997 32¢ Kwanzaa
US #3175 was the first US stamp issued for Kwanzaa.

On December 26, 1966, Maulana Karenga celebrated the first Kwanzaa.

2008 42¢ Kwanzaa
US #4373 – The seven robed figures represent the seven days and seven principles of Kwanzaa.
2009 44¢ Kwanzaa
US #4434 – Though Kwanzaa is rooted in African culture, people of all races and ethnicities are invited to celebrate.

In 1965, a deadly riot rocked a largely African American neighborhood in Los Angeles, leaving 34 dead and 1,000 injured. Professor of Black Studies and former activist Maulana Karenga was disturbed by the violence. He wanted to help the African American community overcome the despair this riot, and ones like it, had caused. Karenga was then inspired by the African harvest celebrations to establish his own non-religious holiday that would stress the importance of family and community.

2011 44¢ Kwanzaa
US #4584 – Kente is one of the most widely known elements of African fashion.

So, on December 26, 1966, Karenga led his community in celebrating the first Kwanzaa. The name is taken from a phrase meaning “first fruits” in Swahili, an East African language.

With its fusion of ancient African practices and African American ideals and aspirations, Kwanzaa is a non-denominational celebration. It is seen as a time for the gathering of families, and for rededication to the seven principles of Nguzo Saba, a set of values as expressed by Karenga.

2013 46¢ Kwanzaa
US #4845 – Karenga hoped Kwanzaa would help “to constantly bring good into the world.”

The Kwanzaa principles are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of these principles.

2016 47¢ Kwanzaa
US #5141 – Kwanzaa lasts from December 26 to January 1.

During each evening of the seven-day holiday, family members light one of the seven candles of the kinara (candleholder), and then discuss that day’s principle. The first is the black candle in the center, which symbolizes African people everywhere. Three red candles, representing the blood of ancestors, are on the left. Three green candles, symbolizing the earth, life, and promise for the future, are on the right.

2018 50¢ Kwanzaa
US #5337 – A special feast known as a Karamu is held on December 31.

There are several items common to a Kwanzaa celebration that have special significance. They are the mkeka, a straw mat symbolizing the earth; muhindi, ears of corn that symbolize offspring; zawadi, gifts symbolizing the parents’ work and the rewards of children; kinara, a seven-space candle holder, symbolizing the stalk from which the African people grew; and mishumaa saba, seven candles symbolizing the Seven Principles.

2020 55¢ Kwanzaa
US #5531 – In the seven-day celebration, there are seven symbols, seven candles, and seven letters in the name Kwanzaa.

Participants often exchange gifts. Near the end of the holiday, the community gathers for a feast called karamu, which may include performances, music, and dancing.

2022 60¢ Kwanzaa
US #5737 – People often exchange homemade gifts on the final day.

One of the biggest Kwanzaa celebrations is “The Spirit of Kwanzaa.” The event – which is held annually at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC – consists of dancing, singing, and poetry by members of the African American community.

Through the years, Kwanzaa has become a true celebration. It is about remembering the past and looking forward to the future. The African American community has become more united because of the holiday. Kwanzaa has led to more recognition of the African American community and their valuable contributions to our society.

Click here to get all the Kwanzaa stamps issued through 2022.

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One Comment

  1. I didn’t realize this movement emphasized family strength and faith. Thanks for pointing that out. It also emphasizes responsibly and not victimization
    I prefer these ideas to some of the more recent movements that weaken or eliminate the need for close family life.

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