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Kwanzaa is an African American festival. Celebrated around the world by millions of people of African descent, the week-long holiday of Kwanzaa was developed by the American scholar and activist Maniana Karenga in 1966. Kwanzaa celebrates African family, community and culture. It is based on African harvest celebrations, and the name comes from the Swahili for "first fruits of harvest." It takes place from December 26 to January 1, a time that in some African cultures is called "the time when the edges of the year meet" and is traditionally spent in celebration, focus and assessment. The symbolism of the festival comes from various African traditions. Each night, one or more of seven candles arranged in a candleholder — one black, three red and three green — is lit, and one of seven principles is discussed: unity, self-determination, collective work, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. These are considered the highest ethical and cultural values and are also known as the seven principles of African American community development. Kwanzaa is represented by seven symbols: crops, a mat, a candleholder, the seven candles, ears of corn, gifts and a unity cup, the Kikome Cha Umoja. All seven symbols are put on a straw mat. The celebrants use the unity cup to pour libations for the ancestors and they drink, from it to reinforce unity in the family and community. The candles are lit alternately from left to right. On the first night, the black candle in the center, symbolising the black people, is lit; on the second night, the black one and the first candle to its left, a red one, symbolising their struggle; on the third night, the first two and the green one to the right of the black one, which symbolises the future and hope which comes from the struggle; and so on each night, alternating left to right. Gifts such as books or heritage symbols relating to the history, culture or community of African Americans are exchanged; they are primarily given to children, but other family members can also exchange gifts.

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