Holiday Unit for 2nd and 3rd Grade

By: Erika Wardle and Janey Stoddard


Teacher Background Information:

Kwanzaa is centered around "The Seven Principles" or Nguzo Saba.

1. Umoja, (unity) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

2. Kujichagulia (Self-determination) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) - To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.

4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

5. Nia (Purpose) - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

6. Kuumba (Creativity) - To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

7. Imani (Faith) - To believe with all our hear in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Maulana Karenga

Who: Dr. Maulana Karenga invented Kwanzaa. He taught African-American history at California State University in Long Beach, California. He studied ways that African-Americans could help themselves and each other, and researched ancient African harvest ceremonies and "first fruit" celebrations.

Why: Dr. Karenga wanted to help unify the African-American people. He wanted to help African- Americans help themselves. He also wanted a special time of year set aside to celebrate and unify the people. Dr. Karenga wanted African-Americans to remember their African ancestors and traditions.

What and When: In 1966 Dr. Karenga created Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday based upon the ancient customs of Africa. Kwanzaa is a Swahili word meaning "First Fruit." Kwanzaa starts December 26 and lasts until the new year begins.(Jan.1st). It is a time when African-Americans come together to honor traditions of their ancestors and set goals for the coming year. It is a celebration of the past, present, and future.

Where: Kwanzaa is an original African-American holiday, it is not a religious holiday. It is not celebrated in Africa. It is celebrated in America and some European nations.

Objects and Symbolism


- a colorful straw mat used on the table

- it symbolizes past traditions, and African-American History

- the African proverb "No matter how high a house is built, it must stand on something," is used as a metaphor to the mat. Everything eaten will be placed on top of the mat during Kwanzaa.

Kikombe cha umoja (unity cup)

- Is placed on the Mkeka

- It is passed around and everyone drinks water from the cup

- This symbolizes remembering and honoring African-American ancestors, is a heartfelt request for peace, prosperity, and harmony for the new year.

Mazao and Mihindi (fruits and vegetables and ears of corn)

- Placed on the Mkeka

- The fruit and vegetables represent the harvest, which is a reward for working together throughout the year.

- The ears of corn represent children who are the future of the African-American people. It is believed that the children belong to every adult and that it takes a village to raise a child.

Mishumaa saba and Kinara (candles and candle holder)

- Each candle stands for one of the seven principles.

- the Black candle represents umoja (unity), it is placed at the center of the kinara. It is lit during the first day of celebration. The black symbolizes for "the people."

- The 3 red candles represent nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). They are placed to the left of the black candle. The red symbolizes "the struggle of the people."

- The 3 green candles represent kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibilty), and ujamaa (cooperative economics). They are placed to the right of the black candle. The green symbolizes "the future and hope from the struggle."

- The red and green candles are lit from left to right on the following days.

Bendara ya taifa & Nguzo Saba (black, red, & green flag & poster of the 7 principles)

- The black, red, and green on the flag symbolize the 7 prinicples and the people, the struggle of the people, and the future and hope from the struggle.

- A poster of the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles, is displayed in the community and home during Kwanzaa. The Nguzo saba was established to be memorized, discussed, and acted upon during the seven days of Kwanzaa.



Chocolate, Debbi. A Very Special Kwanzaa. Scholastic Inc. New York, 1996. ISBN 0-590-84862-3. 98p.

James, Synthia Saint. The Gifts of Kwanzaa. Albert Whitman & Company. Morton Grove, Illinois, 1994. ISBN 0-8075-2907-9. 30p.

Karenga, Maulana. "Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, Commemorative Edition." University of Sankore Press (1998): n. pag. Online. Internet. 18 Feb. 2002. Available:

Karenga, Maulana. "Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, Commemorative Edition." University of Sankore Press (1998) : n. Pag. Online. Internet. 18 Feb. 2002. Available:

Medearis, Angela Shelf. The Seven Days of Kwanzaa. Scholastic Inc. New York., 1994. ISBN 0-590-46360-8. 111p.

Patmon, Denise Burden-. Imani's Gift at Kwanzaa. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. New York, 1992. ISBN 0-671-79841-3. 23p.

Unit Goals:

Goal 1:

Students will understand the purpose of celebrating Kwanzaa in the African-American culture.

Goal 2:

Students will appreciate that there are symbols and activities associated with the celebration of Kwanzaa.


Lesson Activities:

Day 1

Time: 25 minutes

Goal: #1

Objective: Students will be able to identify holidays that they participate in.

Materials: Book, The Gifts of Kwanzaa, chart paper, drawing paper, markers, crayons

Mini Lesson. Have students draw a picture of their favorite holiday. Have a few of them share their picture and tell the class why this holiday is special to them. Discuss any traditions or activities that their families might take part in during these holidays. Tell them that there is a holiday that African Americans celebrate called Kwanzaa. Read the book The Gifts of Kwanzaa. Use the book to help the students fill out a class Who, What, When, Where, and Why Chart about the Kwanzaa holiday. Write on a piece of chart paper all the information that you find that answers the who, what, when, where, and why questions. This chart can be displayed in the classroom during the unit.


Day 2

Time: 40 minutes

Goal: #2

Objective: Students will be able to identify the symbols associated with Kwanzaa.

Materials: - Mishimaa saba and kinara (candles 1 black, 3 red, 3 green and candle holder), Mazao and Mihindi (fruits and vegetables, fruit bowl), Kikomie cha imoja (unity cup), Mkeka (straw mat), Bendara ya taifa (black, red, & green flag), Nguzo Saba (poster of the 7 principles)

Centers. Explain to the class that there are 5 Kwanzaa centers set up in the classroom that will help them learn more about Kwanzaa and how it is celebrated. Split the class into 5 groups and assign each group to a different center. Tell them that they will have about seven minutes in each center and when they hear the bell ring it will be time to move to the next center. At each center have a parent volunteer who can teach the students about their specific aspect of the holiday. Have the students go to their centers.


#1 Mkeka-(straw mat)

#2 Kikombe cha umoja- (Unity cup)

#3 Mazao and Mihindi- (fruits and vegetables and ears of corn)

#4 Mishumaa saba and Kinara- (candles and candle holder)

#5 Bendara ya taifa & Nguzo Saba- (black, red, & green flag & poster of the 7 principles)


Day 3

Time: 35 minutes

Goal: #2

Objective: Students will be able to compare gifts given at their family's holidays and gifts given during Kwanzaa.

Materials: Red, green, and black construction paper, envelopes, scissors, glue, markers, crayons, glitter, ribbon, or other decorating items.

Zawadi gifts. Ask the students to name holidays they celebrate where gift giving is a tradition. What type of gifts do their friends and family usually give? What gifts do they get? The teacher may want to bring in an example of a gift she/he has received. Tell the students that, during Kwanzaa, people also give gifts. They are called Zawadi gifts and, unlike the gifts we often give and receive, are handmade. Read Imani's Gift at Kwanzaa. Explain that we will be making Zawadi gifts today. Lay out all the materials and have the students choose what they would like to make. Possible options are cards, bookmarks, puzzles, flashcards, etc. The students draw names to know who they will be giving the gift to on the day of the celebration (Day 4).


Day 4

Time: 45 minutes

Goal: #2

Objective: Students will be able to recognize that there is meaning behind the foods eaten at Kwanzaa.

Materials: recipe ingredients and utensils needed, crock pot

Kwanzaa Food Experience. (This lesson should be used the day of your Kwanzaa celebration.) Explain to the students that just like with holidays they celebrate, people eat special foods at Kwanzaa time. Introduce the students to recipes used during Kwanzaa. Invite the cafeteria workers to come in and help your class make some of the recipes. (Ask them before hand. They can also bake the potatoes in the school oven for you.) The first recipe to make is Baked Sweet Potatoes With Spiced Butter. As you make this recipe explain to the children the history behind this dish. (reference The Seven Days of Kwanzaa). Another recipe to make is Ashanti Peanut Soup. While you are making the recipe talk to the children about the history of peanuts in the African culture. Introduce George Washington Carver to the students and talk about his life and what he tried to accomplish with peanuts. (reference The Seven Days of Kwanzaa).

* The recipes will need to be prepared and cooked early in the day. This way they will be ready for your celebration. Eat your recipes during the feast.


Day 5

Time: 40 minutes

Goal: #1

Objective: Students will be able to identify positive events from the beginning of the school year and set goals for the remainder of the school year.

Materials: White paper in the following sizes - 4.5" x 8.5", 5.5" x 8.5", 6.5" x 8.5" (each student needs one of each size), red, green, and black crayons and markers, scissors, red and green curling ribbon, access to a hole puncher

Reflection. Explain to the students that the final day of the Kwanzaa celebration is a time for reflecting on the good things that have happened over the past year. It is also a time for setting goals for the upcoming year. In pairs, have the students reflect on good things that have happened during the school year. They may also want to reflect on the things they have learned from our study of Kwanzaa. Individually, have students make a Kwanzaa booklet. It should be three pages - a title page on small paper, reflection page on medium sized paper, and goal page on large paper. The students will write their reflections and goals, then decorate their book and tie the pages together. Allow the students to share their reflections and goals with the class. The teacher may also want to share.