Gift Giving for Kwanzaa

Zawadi (African-Swahili meaning gifts) is one of the symbols and traditions of Kwanzaa. It illustrates a parent’s hard work and sacrifices to provide gifts for their children’s conduct and excellence in school. Gifts are given in the days after Christmas or on the last principle of Kwanzaa, Imani, to inspire self-determination, development, and accomplishments.

Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, states in his book, “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture”:  1) children be the primary recipient of Kwanzaa gifts, 2) the gifts be given based on commitments made and kept, and 3) the gifts not be mandatory or excessive. Karenga states that Kwanzaa gifts should include two items: a book and a heritage symbol, and that those gifts should never serve as a substitution for love, attention, and involvement with a child.

Zawadi can also be given to family members. The sixth principle is Kuumba, meaning creativity. Utilize that principle to make homemade gifts and have children create personalized and unique gifts for their loved ones. Buying gifts is also an option, but they should inexpensive, culturally themed products and purchased from black-owned businesses, which satisfies another principle, Ujamaa, cooperative economics.

Here are some handmade or store-bought ideas for gifts:

  • Candles
  • Kente fabric
  • Custom family photo album
  • Quilt
  • African dolls
  • Red, black and green flag
  • Art
  • Beaded jewelry
  • Home décor
  • Kwanzaa greeting cards
  • Gift card/certificate from a black owned-business

Kwanzaa is a time for celebration, reflection, and self-affirmation with family and friends. Any gift made, bought, or given with love to honor African heritage is what’s important.

Tammy Gibson is a travel historian, author, and writer. Find her at, Facebook, Instagram @SankofaTravelher, and Twitter @SankofaTravelH

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