As COVID cases continue to spike, Kwanzaa celebrations are being held virtually.

The holiday commemorates African American culture honoring traditions of the Nguzo Saba: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by professor and activist Dr. Karenga. Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday celebrated annually from December 26 to January 1.

No, Kwanzaa does not mean seven more days of gifts. The last day of Kwanzaa is more focused on gift-giving, but more so meaningful, homemade gifts. That’s the beauty of the holiday; it’s concentrated on honoring African American heritage and not the materialistic things.

Karenga designed the holiday to reaffirm African Americans’ roots in African culture. Kwanzaa’s name comes from a phrase of Swahili origin, “Matunda Ya Kwanza,” and translates as “First Fruits of the Harvest.” The holiday’s colors are red, black, and green – the colors of the Pan-African flag, which symbolizes unity among African people all over the world.

Common Kwanzaa traditions include placing corn, a candleholder known as a kinara, a communal cup, and a black, red, and green flag on a decorative mat, or mkeka. The kinara holds seven candles, one black, three red, and three green, representing the people, the struggle, and the future. The black center candle is lit first, and then it alternates between the red and green candles, starting with the ones on the outside and moving inward. They stand for the seven principles:

• Umoja – Unity
• Kujichagulia – Self-Determination
• Ujima – Collective work and responsibility
• Ujamaa – Cooperative economics
• Nia – Purpose
• Kuumba – Creativity
• Imani – Faith

Christmas and Kwanzaa can both be celebrated. So yes, you can have a merry Christmas and a happy Kwanzaa!