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Kwanzaa and Divali

written by: Marlene Gundlach • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Customs and traditions as celebrated during Kwanza (an African-American celebration) and Divali (a Festival of Lights in India).

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    Kwanzaa

    diversity Kwanzaa is celebrate between December 26th and January 1st. It centers around the lighting of candles and is an African-American holiday based on African harvest festivals. It incorporates the seven principles of black culture as developed by M. Ron Karenga, a cultural leader. On each day of Kwanza, a different principle is discussed and often homemade gifts are exchanged. Special holiday foods are also served. Kwanza is a way to honor ancestors and celebrate the love of family.

    Read with your students “Kwanzaa" by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate. It is an excellent source of Kwanzaa information for children and their teachers. It explains the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

    Have students make placemats to represent the harvest theme of Kwanzaa. Begin with an 18" x 12" piece of black construction paper. Decorate the border with small red and green circles. You may use circle sponges and paint the circles, or punch/cut out circles from red and green paper. Have the children draw and color different fruits and vegetables from colored paper and cut them out to glue onto the place mat. Laminate each place mat, or cover them with clear contact paper to protect them.

    You may use the student’s place mats during a classroom karamu, or feast. There are traditional African-American foods that are served during Kwanza that can be served during your feast. Collard greens represent prosperity. Black-eyed peas represent good luck. You can also serve cornbread, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, or carrot cake. During the karamu play a recording of traditional African music.

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    Divali

    Hindu children in India celebrate Divali, the Festival of Lights. During Divali, families visit relatives and exchange gifts. At sunset, special clay saucer lamps are lit and set out on the roofs of houses, along roads, and on the banks of rivers and streams. Sometimes, rivers are set afloat along riverbanks during silent ceremonies. The lights are said to guide Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of good fortune, to earth to leave blessings of good fortune.

    In Ceylon, a special maple-like Divali cady is molded into animal shapes. Students can prepare a batch of sugar cookie dough and flavor it with maple syrup. Children can use animal-shaped cookie cutters to cut out the dough. They can represent the Divali candy that children enjoy in Ceylon to celebrate Divali.