"Kwanzaa is a Made - Up Holiday"

I must admit. When people say, “Kwanzaa is a made-up holiday,” I turn into the holiday scrooge for the ages. Never mind the bunnies and eggs, elves and reindeer, or the totally made-up holiday named after some saint named Valentine. (Who’s that guy anyway?) How did we get to the point where a mythical man named Santa Claus is realer than Kwanzaa for some people?

Like every single holiday, Kwanzaa was invented. It is a week-long celebration, beautifully made, intended to celebrate that which is "holy" to people of African descent. It is a celebration of heritage that draws from a history of strength, resilience and innovation. And yes, it was made up! It is important to acknowledge that some folks resist Kwanzaa because of the controversial history of its founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga. I get it. Yet, the communal vision that Dr. Karenga and so many others invented around Kwanzaa is much deeper than any individual. The truth is, so many of us are also resistant to Kwanzaa because of ignorance. Our relationship to our culture is often entangled with shame, misinformation, distortions and indoctrination. For me, it is this legacy of cultural imposition (and the systematic demonization of Black ways of being) that makes Kwanzaa such a beautiful ritual.

For generations, Black people have “made a way out of no way” and have cultivated beauty and excellence despite obstacles and hostility. If we can make up words, names, style, rhythm, family, and stories, surely we can make up special days that honor that which is holy to people of African descent in order to be truly free.

Kwanzaa plants the seeds. It encourages us to plan the new year with intention and vision by tapping into the wisdom of our ancestors. Kwanzaa is a vehicle for Black folks to continue to build and create new traditions. Now, what will you “make up” to secure our liberation?

Here’s the good news. Black Star Rising is excited to launch new content to kick off Black History Month, 2019. New material will be available in February. Since Black History Month was inspired by Negro History Week (made up by Dr. Carter G. Woodson) we’re offering the full unit, “The Politics of Miseducation” at 50% off!

Use the code UMOJA at checkout between now and January 5th! Click here to receive your discount. A perfect gift for the holiday season! 

Remember, you do not have to be a teacher to use our material. Black Star Rising study guides are perfect for individual study, and we encourage parents and mentors to take the intellectual journey with the young folks in your circle.


  1. Embrace your tongue! If you can pronounce Coogi, Chaka Khan and Aliyah, then you can fix your tongue to say kugichagulia! Commit to learning the principles and symbols and practice pronunciation. Kiswahili is a beautiful language.

  2. Approach with pride and take good care. If your kinara, candles, mat and fabric have been packed away all year, pull out that material and take time for proper preparation. Clean off symbols and iron the fabric. Take pride in your Kwanzaa display. Treat it as sacred.

  3. Involve children if you can. The seven principles of Kwanzaa can have a remarkable influence on the socialization of our youth. Get them engaged and let them lead!

  4. If you are rolling solo during the holiday, or haven't prepped a celebration in your home, consider a community celebration. Kwanzaa is a great opportunity to maintain human connection and build people-to-people ties.

Happy Kwanzaa!
Much love and light to you and your family!

Dr. TaSha