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African Americans Celebrate Kwanzaa

The seven-day festival of Kwanzaa will begin December 26. It is a time when African Americans highlight their heritage.

Maulana Karenga, a black activist and African Studies professor, created Kwanzaa in 1966, to - as he said - "give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history." Each day is dedicated to a different principle, and a candle is lit each night. At a recent festival at the California African American Museum, Babe Evans explained the principles behind the upcoming holiday to a group of children. The first is unity.

“Umoja. It means a time to think about your ancestors, to think about the struggles that people have been through, so that you can now have a life that is much more open," said Evans.

Kwanzaa is based on African themes. Its principles are stated in the Swahili language, and the name Kwanzaa comes from a phrase meaning first fruits of the harvest.

“The second day, because it's a seven-day ceremony, is Kujichagulia, and that means self-determination," said Evans.

Collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. These round out the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

Gift-giving is a part of the holiday, but actor Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter says the celebration has not become commercialized, like Christmas.

“In Kwanzaa, we make our gifts. All the kids will make something and give to each other, and then we have an abundance of food that's shared," said Anderson-Gunter.

In many African-American homes, Kwanzaa is celebrated along with Christmas. Writer Marsha Bullock, whose family is Christian, says that's what her family does.

“We do Christmas, and then Kwanzaa starts directly the day after, so we do that too. And then of course, my favorite part is the celebration where you get to eat everything," said Bullock.

The festival will end January 1st with a feast with friends and family.