African American Gifts

In 1966, Ron Karenga developed a new cultural tradition to embrace and celebrate all African Americans in the United States.  He called this celebration Kwanzaa, a Swahili word that means “first fruits of the harvest.”  Karenga was overwhelmed and unimpressed with the overt commercialization that had become of the spiritual celebration of Christmas and Kwanzaa was intended to add some balance to that consumerism.

We Americans just really like to give gifts, though, and Kwanzaa celebrations allow some very specific African American gifts to be shared.  Kwanzaa is celebrated around seven principles for living and these celebrations traditionally feature seven elements of the program.  One of these elements is Zawadi, simple gifts.

The best examples of African American gifts given in celebration of Zawadi are simple, preferably hand made.  They are best when they are educational and pertaining to the African American experience or influenced by Africa.

Books make perfect African American gifts as Zawadi offerings, especially when they are about the history of African Americans or of Africa itself.  Historic figures such as Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Frederick Douglass are likely to become treasured keepsakes when they are received on such an honored occasion.

African American gifts for Kwanzaa can make Africa come to life for children when they receive books about the pyramids, the animals of Africa, or traditional stories and folklore told to children in Africa.  A book of African proverbs may bring wisdom into someone’s life that they will use forever.

Home-baked delicacies make excellent offerings for the Zawadi basket at a Kwanzaa celebration.  Especially nice are baked goods made from traditional African American recipes or using foods indigenous to Africa.

Peanuts are native to the African continent and Americans love them, too.  Peanut butter cookies or peanut brittle are enjoyed by young and old alike and are sure to be crowd-pleasers at any gathering.

If you are lucky enough to know how to knit, crochet, or sew, you might want to make gifts based upon the liberation colors of Kwanzaa – red, black, and green.  Many Kwanzaa celebrants use these colors in the ribbons they wrap around the gifts they give.

One of the most endearing aspects of Kwanzaa is not the gifts given but the wisdom that is shared.  This very thought-provoking holiday is gaining in popularity and people whose heritage comes from all parts of the globe increasingly honor and celebrate this lovely African American holiday.

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