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Millions celebrate start of Kwanzaa

CNN's Rusty Dornin reports on the holiday
Windows Media 28K 56K
December 26, 1998
Web posted at: 7:07 p.m. EST (0007 GMT)

(CNN) -- December 26 marked the start of the seven-day Kwanzaa holiday, now said to be celebrated by more than 20 million people in the United States, Canada, Britain, the Caribbean and Africa.

"Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture based on the first-fruits celebrations of African culture," says Maulana Karenga, who created the symbols and celebration 32 years ago, when he was a Ph.D. candidate and black community organizer in Los Angeles, in the midst of the civil rights movement.

Each day from December 26 to January 1, one candle is lit to represent one of seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Symbols that should appear on the holiday table, according to Karenga, are: a straw place mat, a holder for the seven candles, the candles, a variety of fruit, an ear of corn for each child in the home, a unity cup and modest gifts.

Three gifts are traditionally placed on the mat for each child: one book to further a goal or highlight black achievement, one heritage symbol and a toy or other present.

The name Kwanzaa is part of a Swahili phrase meaning "first fruits."

Correspondent Rusty Dornin contributed to this report.

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