Everything to Know About Kwanzaa Food, Because It's an Important Part of the Celebration

·2 min read
Photo credit: Inti St. Clair - Getty Images
Photo credit: Inti St. Clair - Getty Images

From Woman's Day

Though white people and non-Black people of color have likely heard of Kwanzaa, not everyone knows how the holiday is celebrated. The annual holiday affirming African-American culture was created by American professor Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. It was inspired by African harvest festivals, a time when communities honor crops and laborers. In fact, Kwanzaa was named for the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” While food is an integral part of celebrating each day of Kwanzaa, the largest meal typically takes place on the sixth night.

A Feast of Faith, called a Karamu Ya Imani, is held on December 31, and originally families spent the night enjoying traditional African cuisine. Over the decades, celebrants have increasingly introduced food of the African diaspora to their feasts, such as Southern soul food and Caribbean dishes. The menu for the feast can vary depending on the family and their traditions, but no matter what, the table will likely include a few symbolic foods: the mazoa (fruits and vegetables symbolizing the bounty of the harvest) and the muhindi (ears of corn symbolizing fertility and representing each child in the family).

The main dish served at Karamu tends to be a one-pot stew, which can come from one of many traditions. Examples include everything from Ghanaian groundnut stew and Red red (African stewed black-eyed peas) to Cajun jambalaya and Creole gumbo. Meals usually include several starches as well, such as Virginia spoon bread, South African mealie bread, Southern Hoppin' John, Nigerian jollof rice, Accras (Caribbean fritters), or Injera (Ethiopian flatbread). Other popular staples include catfish, jerk chicken, collard greens, fried plantains, fried okra, candied yams, sweet potato pie, and coconut pound cake, among several others.

While the seven days of Kwanzaa are primarily dedicated to honoring the Nguzo Saba, or the Seven Principles (which include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), the holiday also emphasizes the importance of family and community, and nothing brings family together like food.

Want to make your holidays shine? You’re in luck! Subscribe to Woman's Day today and get 73% off your first 12 issues. And while you’re at it, sign up for our FREE newsletter for even more of the Woman's Day content you want.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting