Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December Dilemma: Celebrating Kwanzaa

This time of year is so hectic and stressful for teachers. They are faced with the “December Dilemma.” The dilemma of making sure all cultures and religions are respected, not forgotten, and celebrated. 
Kwanzaa is among one of the Holiday’s included in the “December Dilemma.”
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the U.S. and Canada honoring African heritage. It is observed from December 26th-January 1st of each year. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Kwanzaa has seven principles unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

As a child I was unaware of Kwanzaa. It wasn't until I was in high school that my mother decided to make Kwanzaa a tradition in our home.  My mom and I observed the Holiday just the two of us or sometimes with another family. I enjoyed celebrating it as a teenager, but as an adult I haven’t continued celebrating this tradition.

This made me curious as to how many Black people celebrate Kwanzaa? I posed the question on Facebook and the results revealed that most either never did or they participated in a Kwanzaa school program. With the popularity of Kwanzaa in the schools, I wonder if there is the assumption that all African Americans celebrate this holiday and know what it is.

 I would like to encourage teachers this year when addressing Kwanzaa to not assume that the African American students in the class celebrate and/or know about Kwanzaa. Keep in mind the Kwanzaa activities and lessons may be some students’ first encounter with the Holiday. View it as an opportunity to introduce cultural tradition in an authentic and accurate manner.

African traditions and culture was stripped from the slaves and unfortunately African Americans could not celebrate homeland traditions. However, this shouldn't discourage people from understanding its purpose and embracing it as an African American tradition. I encourage all African American families to honor African heritage by celebrating Kwanzaa every year!

Happy Kwanzaa!

Here is a list of African American Holiday books to share with the sunkissed child in your life!
  • My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz
  • 'Twas the Night B'Fore Christmas: An African-American Version by Melodye Benson Rosales
  • Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington and Shane W. Evans
  • Grace at Christmas by Mary Hoffman illustrated by Cornelius VanWright
  • Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis and Daniel Minter
  • A Treasury of African-American Christmas Stories edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas
  • Santa's Kwanzaa by Garen Eileen Thomas and Guy Francis
  • Hello, Santa! (Little Bill) by Catherine Lukas  illustrated by Bernie Cavender and  Etsu Kahata
  • The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora
  • Imani's Gift At Kwanzaa by Denise Burden-Patmon and Floyd Cooper
  • Christmas with Little Bill by Eric Weil illustrated by Daniel M. Kanemoto
  • An Angel Just Like Me by Mary Hoffman illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
  • It's Kwanzaa Time!: A Lift-the-Flap Story by Synthia Saint James
  • The Bells of Christmas by Virginia Hamilton illustrated by Lambert Davis
  • A Kwanzaa Celebration Pop-Up Book by Nancy Williams  and Robert Sabuda
  • Chita's Christmas Tree by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard illustrated by Floyd Cooper


  1. Thank you for posting the holiday list of books! Helpful to have these suggestions.

  2. Thank for this post about African American books for the holidays. This is great!