Created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is a celebration of African American culture. It’s a festival based on various festival traditions from Southeast and West Africa. It begins on December 26 and ends on January 1, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu. The name, Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili word kwanza, which means “first fruits.”
In Karenga’s words, Kwanzaa is an opportunity for African-Americans to celebrate themselves and their history. And to celebrate this beautiful festival, we made this list of books that highlight the culture and traditions around this festival!
1. Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture by Maulana Karenga
This book is written by the creator of Kwanzaa – Maulana Karenga himself! This book presents the African and African-American origins of the festival. There’s a chapter each on the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, and explanations for a lot of things Kwanzaa related. Karenga also answers frequently asked questions about Kwanzaa, and he shares suggested activities that people can do for Kwanzaa. The book even details the author’s very first Kwanzaa celebration ever! This book has everything you need to know about Kwanzaa – and it’s coming directly from the creator himself.
2. Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking by Eric V. Copage, design and illustrations by Cheryl Carrington
Food is a very important part of our cultures and our identities, and that holds true more than ever with celebratory foods. In this complete guide to the history and foods of Kwanzaa, there are recipes for more than 125 dishes from people of African descent all over the world. But this is not just a recipe book: it’s a celebration of culture and the spirit of African Americans. This book also contains biographies of distinguished African Americans, proverbs, and folk tales that illustrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba).
3. Kwanzaa Klaus by James Henry
Christmas and Kwanzaa happen around the same time every year, and often they are both celebrated together instead of one being chosen over another. The story of Kwanzaa Klaus follows a family during the holiday season. The father of the family accidentally messes up Christmas due to some bad luck and then tries to make things right with his family through Kwanzaa. It’s a heartwarming story that portrays the complex cultural landscapes of America through a simple Kwanzaa/Christmas tale.
4. Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanada G. Ford and Shelly Hehenberger
This is a children’s book that everyone should read. A snowstorm during the holiday season may prevent a family from getting together for Kwanzaa festivities. Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite holiday, but her brother Khari may not be able to make it because of the snowstorm. Read this tale about family, togetherness, community, and the spirit of Kwanzaa for all the warm and fuzzy feelings this holiday season!
5. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis, Daniel Minter
Seven Spools of Thread is a Kwanzaa story about seven brothers who live together in an African village. Their father has left them with a challenge after passing away: turn seven spools of thread into gold or be cut from their inheritance and made to live as beggars. The brothers, who are otherwise always arguing, have to find a way to come together and solve the challenge for the sake of their futures. This book is beautifully illustrated and written especially for Kwanzaa, and it serves as a great read for the holiday season.
6. Kwanzaa, From Holiday to Every Day: A Complete Guide for Making Kwanzaa a Part of Your Life by Maitefa Angaza
Traditionally, Kwanzaa brings the community together for a celebration in the winter. But Kwanzaa, From Holiday to Every Day is a book that teaches you how you can make the principles of Kwanzaa a part of your life all year round. Whether you have been celebrating Kwanzaa all your life or you had never heard of it until now – this book will teach you how you can make this holiday season special for yourself and your loved ones!
Reading is always a way to experience everything in the world even if you’re not there for it physically, and this makes it one of the best ways to create bridges between cultures! We hope these books help you learn a little bit more about Kwanzaa and the traditions and histories of African American households across America. Joyous Kwanzaa!