Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that celebrates African heritage and identity. The name comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which translates to "first fruits," and the holiday is based on traditional African harvest festivals. Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor and department chair at California State University, Long Beach. It is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, "thus available to and practiced by Africans of all religious faiths who come together based on the rich, ancient and varied common ground of their Africanness."
Kwanzaa is observed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. The seven days correspond to the Seven Principles, or Nguzo Saba. Seven candles are lighted during Kwanzaa, and seven symbols are placed around the home.