A non-black person's guide to Kwanzaa

(CNN)You don't have to be black to understand how Kwanzaa works.

All it takes is a kind heart and an open mind willing to learn the history of the holiday that celebrates African-American culture.
Here's some common Kwanzaa knowledge everyone should know.

You can spell it Kwanzaa or Kwanza

    Regardless, it's still pronounced "kwahn-zuh." You can listen to this nice man say it here.
    The name comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits."

    But don't assume every black person speaks Swahili

    Don't even assume just the black people who celebrate Kwanzaa speak Swahili. (I'm emphasizing the "black people who celebrate Kwanzaa" part because not all of us celebrate Kwanzaa.)
    Maulana Karenga, the professor who created the holiday in 1966, chose Swahili as the holiday's language because it's one that isn't defined by a particular African region or tribe.

    And it's not a Hanukkah knockoff

    Yes, it seems a little similar at first. Hanukkah is eight days. Kwanzaa is seven. The Jewish holiday involves a menorah. Kwanzaa lights a kinara. But they both have their own histories, so please don't try to compare them.
    Kwanzaa is always from December 26 to January 1. Each day is dedicated to the Nguzo Saba, also known as the seven principles.
    The kinara holds seven candles, one black, three red and three green, which represent the people, the struggle and the future. They also represent the seven principles: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba) and faith (imani).