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Celebrating Kwanzaa with Food Traditions

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

Celebrated the week between Christmas and New Year’s, Kwanzaa is deeply embedded in the values embraced by many of us, regardless of cultural, ethnic or religious identity.

A secular holiday enjoyed by many, Kwanzaa was created as a celebration of community, life and reflection for the African-American and Pan-African communities. That said, the values and traditions of Kwanzaa easily speak to a multitude of individuals.

Celebrated over seven days, the principles of Kwanzaa are rooted in the cultural traditions and practices of first harvest celebrations in Africa. Each day from December 26th to January 1st a different value is celebrated (in Swahili and English):

December 26th:

December 27th:

December 28th:

December 29th:

December 30th:

December 31st:

January 1st:

There are various symbols and practices associated with Kwanzaa as well. They vary from the Mishumaa Saba, or seven candles, lit each day on a candle holder called the Kinara to Siku ya Taamuli, or a day of meditation for self-reflection and remembrance, on January 1st.

The celebratory feast of Kwanzaa, called Karamu, occurs on December 31st. Karamu offers an array of recipes stemming from “soul food” favorites like spoon bread to those with Caribbean and Cajun influence such as jerk chicken and Gumbo Ya-Ya.

Although foods of Karamu are often rich in fat, salt and sugar, they need not be. Many dishes enjoyed during Kwanzaa lend themselves to health. For example, deep rich-colored vegetables such as mustard greens and legumes like black-eyed peas are common ingredients. So are spices, fresh herbs and fruit juices in place of high sodium seasonings.

Enjoy this delicious and nutritious Black-Eyed Pea Soup from our culinary intern Elizabeth A. Willingham:



Enjoy for good luck
in the coming year!

Get Recipe >>

Published 12/27/2021; Reviewed 12/1/2022