Kwanzaa: Preparation time (Long version)


Kwanzaa is a seven day celebration. The whole family can be involved in every aspect. It’s suggested that families start planning a month in advance.

Review these books if necessary:

Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community & Culture by M. Karenga

Practicing Kwanzaa Year Round by Gwynelle Dismukes

Send out Kwanzaa cards. You can make your own for eg. Remember that free e-cards are online too.

If you have young children help them prepare with colouring pages, games: &

Pull out Kwanzaa table set. This may include special kitchenware and/or special lights and candles. Buy new items as necessary. Check local farmers for produce for your table. Remember that it’s fine to substitute corn with sugar cane, carrots, paw paws, sweet potatoes or anything that’s in season.

If you decorate get the entire family involved in changing linen, putting out a Kwanzaa welcome mat and/or African-centred symbols/decorations (red, black, green balloons inside your home) on doors, fridges.

Pull out

Borrow ideas from

Read from/listen to:

Start playing Kwanzaa music ie.,,, The Kwanzaa Album, Kwanzaa Yen Iwe Na Heri (Mxolisi & the Sankofa Singers)and so on. Don’t forget about music from all over Africa and the Diaspora ie. jazz, soca, blues, rap, neo-soul, R&B, reggae, steel pan, afrobeat, calypso, hip hop, salsa, zouk, soul etc.

Think about hosting a pre-Kwanzaa party for your children and their friends. Include snacks & cupcakes/small cake decorated with African-centred sayings, symbols (order from black-owned bakery/caterer). Have African-centred/Kwanzaa-themed games. Play some dvd’s like Little Bill, Kirikou, Tell me Who I Am, African folktales. Read stories from Africa and the diaspora.

Head to a public Kwanzaa event or two.

Change your voice mail message ie.quote an African proverb, say “Happy Kwanzaa” or “Habari Gani?” etc. Have all family members participate.

Organize if/how you’ll do gift giving (extended family) and gift exchange (immediate family). This may include making baked goods for relatives ie. brownies, sugar cookies with red, black & green sprinkles.

Decide on an extended family gathering ie. games/movie night. Potlucks work well. You may want to decide on a country theme. Community service projects may go smoothly via Afrikan masquerade or RBG costume parties may go over well too.

Organize your Kwanzaa gatherings ie. who you’ll invite (friends, family, storytellers, dance/capoeira groups), a theme (optional), a community service element. Talk about the foods and libations you’ll have/what you want to do each day etc. You may want to try a new dish each year. Don’t forget those recipes from your immediate ancestors. Decide on at least one karamu (feast day). Feel free to use baskets, calabashes, clay pots and so on. Other ideas include eating close to/on the floor and preparing dishes that encourage eating/sharing with your hands.

Set aside one day that the children plan. They will choose/help prepare the food, who will be invited, plan activities (skits, games, scavenger hunts, talent/fashion show, musical chairs, craft making, face painting, outings, chants/songs) etc. They will also be responsible for inviting folks via cards or phone calls. Suggestion: Order a decorated cake (with African-centred theme) from a black-owned caterer or bakery.

Read Kwanzaa stories as a family. Watch Kwanzaa DVD ie. The Black Candle ( This will help remind your family of Kwanzaa’s significance and more importantly why it’s part of your family’s calendar.

Take out your family album(s).

– Decide on 1-2 ancestors (ones who embodied a principle) to acknowledge during Kwanzaa. Set aside a photo of the ancestor (if possible) to place on your Kwanzaa table.

– Take a look at old Kwanzaa photos. You may like to start a Kwanzaa scrapbook/album. book/

Educate your child’s school:

– Show “The Black Candle” or “Kwanzaa with the Jones’s.” You may wish to do a family presentation/skit about Kwanzaa. Take on the project as a family. Don’t expect your child’s school to do this. You may want to send some Kwanzaa info./crafts/music to your child’s teacher/principal.

– These books may help:

The Complete Kwanzaa Celebration by Linda Robertson

How to Plan a Kwanzaa Celebration by I. Gumbs


Check libraries for Kwanzaa displays/resources.

Put kinara candles in freezer. They’ll burn slowly as a result. Take them out during Kwanzaa on an as needed basis.

Pull out your African-centred puzzles, card/board games from &, dominoes, mancala/warri/oware, chess etc. Purchase if necessary.


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