Kwanzaa celebrations and crafts for kids

by Julie Snyder

Kwanzaa celebrationsKwanzaa isn't a religious holiday. It's not a replacement for Christmas. It's a celebration of family and community for African-Americans.

During the civil rights movement in mid-1960s, Maulana Karenga, professor of African-American Studies at the California State University at Long Beach, borrowed from an ancient Swahili seven-day-long harvest celebration and created this holiday.

This special time is set aside for African-Americans, young and old alike, to think about their family, community and culture. To get inspired how they can make a difference.

Kwanzaa celebrations and crafts for kids

Kwanzaa runs from December 26 to January 1. Each day is dedicated to celebrating one of the key principles that helped build strong families and communities in African cultures.

Create a Kwanzaa calendar

Count down the days of Kwanzaa with a calendar you can use year after year.

You'll need:
• large piece of heavy black felt
• red, gold and green felt
• assorted colors of felt scraps
• glitter paint
• ribbon, braided trim or rickrack
• ruler, scissors, pencil, markers and craft glue

Cut strips of ribbon slightly longer and wider than your background felt. Glue in place to make a border about 1/2 inch from the edges, trimming to fit. Mark a 1-inch strip across the red, gold and green felt pieces. Using glitter paint or a marker, write the word unity, self-determination, creativity, sharing by all, cooperation and faith on the color of your choice. Trim the ends to within 1/3 inch of the words.

Make six small, felt envelopes from the same color as the first six labels. Make one wider envelop for the word "faith." Arrange them in two rows -- four across the top and three across the bottom. You may glue these in place or allow them to stick by the power of felt.

Who's on your family tree?

Learn all about your family and decorate at the same time.

You'll need:
• card stock
• crayons or markers
• glue and decorations
• photos of family members
• hole punch
• yarn or ribbon
• large branch

On card stock trace shapes to make frames for everyone in your family. Make two of each shape. Write out the name and birth date on each one. Glue their picture to the matching shape. Trim a photo to slightly smaller than the card stock or scan one and trim it to fit. Color or decorate the border of each frame. Glue the two halves together with the photo on one side and information on the other side. Allow to dry.

Put a hole in the upper part of the frame and add a hanging ribbon. Arrange your family frames on the branch or hang them in window for all to see. As you create each family frame, tell stories. As you hang your frames, have your child repeat the stories.

Make a party favor Kwanzaa bookmark

What you'll need:
• 2" x 4 3/4" heavy paper or card stock background
• strips of red, black and green paper construction paper
• white paper with 1 1/2" by 3" rectangles marked out
• crayons or markers
• hole punch
• ribbon or yarn for tie
• scissors

Draw and color a picture in a white rectangle. Cut it out and then align with the top of your background strip and center side-to-side. Glue it in place. Make a flag from narrow strips of the colored construction paper with the red at the top, the black in the middle and the green at the bottom. Glue it below your picture. Allow to dry.

How is your family celebrating Kwanzaa? Will you be joining a community Karamu feast this year? Which traditional African dish is your favorite?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.