Dec. 26 marks the beginning of Kwanzaa, the seven-night celebration of Black and African family, community and culture.
The holiday has grown to be celebrated by millions across the world, strengthening roots to both African heritage and the African community as a whole.
Here's what you need to know about Kwanzaa:
What are the origins of the holiday?
Dr. Maulana Karenga, an influential professor of Africana studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966 during the Black Freedom Movement.
The origins of the non-religious holiday are tied back to the first harvest celebrations in Africa, according to the official holiday website.
What does Kwanzaa mean?
The name of the holiday comes directly from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" meaning "first fruits." Celebrations surrounding "first fruits" have a deep history in African culture and major religions, although Kwanzaa itself is not a religious holiday.
What do the colors red, green and black symbolize?
The official Kwanzaa website says that black symbolizes the people, red for their struggle and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. Black, red and green candles are lit on the Kinara, a candle holder, during the holiday.
How is Kwanzaa celebrated?
During the holiday, families and communities organize around what are known as the seven principles, or Nguzo Saba.
The seven principles include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
People celebrate with feasts, also known as karamu, music, dance, poetry, narratives and gifts that are encouraged to be educational and promote African heritage.
The holiday ends with a day that is dedicated to reflection and recommitment to the Seven Principles and other core cultural values.
What are the seven symbols of Kwanzaa?
The seven symbols of Kwanzaa are the Kinara, a candle holder; Mishumaa Saba, seven candles; Mkeka, the mat; Mazao, crops; Muhindi, ears of corn; Kikombe Cha Umoja, a unity cup; and Zawadi, gifts.
At the beginning of the holiday, a central place in the home is chosen to spread out an African cloth on a table, then the mat, followed by the other symbols, like the candle holder, crops, corn and unity cup.
Who can celebrate Kwanzaa?
While the holiday honors both African American and Pan-African culture, anyone is welcome to celebrate Kwanzaa. Additionally, because Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday in nature, it can be celebrated alongside other major religious and secular holidays.