Celebrate Kwanzaa With These Joyous Gift Ideas
Kwanzaa is a seven-day annual celebration of African-American culture, heritage, and values. Modeled after various traditional harvest celebrations in Africa, including West and Southeast Africa, it aims to give Black people “an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”
When is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is celebrated right after Christmas, between December 26th and January 1st every year.
History of Kwanzaa
Maulana Karenga, an activist and professor of Africana studies, created Kwanzaa in 1966, after the Watts Uprising. According to Karenga himself, Kwanzaa originates from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which roughly translates to “first fruits”. Karenga was inspired by first fruits festivals in Southern Africa, which are traditionally celebrated in December and January with the southern solstice. He decided to spell the holiday’s name with an additional “a” so that it would have seven symbolic letters.
Kwanzaa celebrates what Karenga called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba — the seven principles of African Heritage which were developed in 1965, a year before Kwanzaa. Each of the seven Kwanzaa days is dedicated to one of these principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Umija (Collective Work and Responsibility), Umjamaa (Cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
Celebratory Kwanzaa symbols include a mat (mkeka) where other symbols are placed. These include a Kinara (candle holder for seven candlesticks), Mishumaa Saba (seven candles), mazao (crops), Mahindi (corn, which may be a part of the holiday meal), a Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup to give thanks to African ancestors), and — of course — Zawadi (Kwanzaa gifts).
How to Celebrate Kwanzaa
Families often celebrate by putting up Kwanzaa decorations like African art and kente in their homes. Kwanzaa traditions include wearing kaftans, sharing fresh fruit to represent African idealism, lighting the Kunara, drinking libations from the unity cup, and having the family’s youngest children join in on ceremonies to pay respect to ancestors.
The best Kwanzaa gifts are often reflective of the holiday’s values. Gifts like handmade jewelry, books, traditional decor, and items that range in the colors of the Pan-African flag (red, green, and black) are always appreciated.
But if you’re celebrating the holiday virtually, or if this is your first Kwanzaa and you’re not yet familiar with the traditions, we recommend sending a simple, meaningful, and elegant gift to express your gratitude.
Mahindi (corn) is a significant part of Kwanzaa celebrations, and is considered to symbolize children and their future. Bring your host a zucchini and corn casserole for a fresh and savory blend of vegetables and aromatic spices — the dish is sure to delight!
Sweet potatoes are a staple of African cuisine, and for good reason: they’re delicious and loaded with nutrition. This year, send them a ready-to-heat dish of whipped sweet potatoes to pair with their favorite dinnertime spread! They’ll be sure to appreciate your thoughtful gesture.
Send them an elegant fruit basket to celebrate the first fruits of Kwanzaa. Packed with the season’s freshest and most succulent produce, these selections from Harry & David feature scrumptious Comice pears, tropical mango, premium apples, creamy avocados, lemons, and more.
Add savory treats to an abundance of fresh fruit! Complete with juicy pears, oranges, roasted pistachios, almonds, cherries, and many more delectable delights, this gourmet basket will make a welcomed addition to any dinner table.
Delight them with a dried fruit tray this Kwanzaa! With handpicked, tree-ripened pears, yellow peaches, dates, plums, and more — these selections are presented on a wooden platter, and perfectly primed for entertaining.
From cashews to pecans, almonds to pistachios, this rich selection of mixed nuts is a wonderful addition for any Kwanzaa get-together. Good for snacking, or as an addition to your loved ones’ favorite Kwanzaa desserts (like pecan pie!), they’ll love the tasty, snackable finds encased within this rustic crate.
Handmade gifts are especially encouraged at Kwanzaa — but don’t sweat it if you’re lacking skills in the crafts department. This DIY Bonsai Kit includes all plant-care materials and presents a hands-on activity that will bring your Kwanzaa giftee closer to the natural world.
If your loved ones possess green thumbs, send them a charming indoor plant like the ZZ, Peace Lily, or Monster to bring tones of nature into their homes or office spaces.
Whichever gift you choose to send this Kwanzaa, remember: the most important aspect of the holiday is bringing people together and celebrating community.
From all of us at SmartGift, happy Kwanzaa!