Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday we all can and should embrace.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of African-American History at California State University. The holiday, which begins on December 26th and lasts for seven days, is a uniquely American holiday that pays tribute to the rich cultural roots of Americans of African ancestry. It is not a religious, political or heroic holiday, but rather a cultural one.

The word Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili word "Kwanza," which means "first" or "first fruit." The holiday is based on ancient African harvest festivals which emphasized teamwork and accomplishment.

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa:

1.Umoja (Unity) - to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, and nation
2.Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) - to define ourselves, speak for ourselves
3.Ujima (Collective Responsibility) - to build and maintain our community together and solve problems together
4.Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) - to build and maintain our own business and profit together
5.Nia (Purpose) - to make our collective vocation the building of our community
6.Kuumba (Creativity) - to do always as much as we can to leave our community better than we inherited
7.Imani (Faith) - to believe with all our hearts in our people, family, leaders, and the worth of our people

The Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa:

1.Mlela (Place Mat) - symbol of history; "today stands on yesterday" as the other symbols stand on the Mkeka
2.Kikombe Cha Umoja (Big Cup) - symbol of unity
3.Mazao (Fruits and Vegetables) - symbol of the harvest
4.Muhindi (Corn) - one ear of corn for each child
5.Kinara (Candle Holder) - symbol of origin
6.Mishumaa Saba (Candles) - one black candle at the center, three red candles on the left, three green candles on the right
7.Zawadi (Gifts) - gifts for the children's good behavior in the past year

The Three Colors of Kwanzaa:

1.Black - unity
2.Red - long struggle for fairness and freedom
3.Green - the future

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The note I received reads:

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