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Kwanzaa Begins Today, Dec. 26

The holiday celebrated primarily in the African-American community began in 1966.

Dec. 26 marks the first day of Kwanzaa. The African American and Pan-African holiday, which continues through Jan. 1, has its roots in the ashes of a riot.

Maulana Karenga, a professor and chairman of black studies at Cal State Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966. Following the 1965 Watts riots, Karenga was searching for a way to bring African Americans together as a community, according to history.com.

The professor researched African "first fruit" harvest festivals. He combined aspects of several different cultures, including the Zulu and Ashanti, to form Kwanzaa.

The name Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase that means "first fruits."

Families celebrate Kwanzaa in different ways, but most celebrations involve songs, dances, drums and storytelling.

On each of the seven nights of Kwanzaa, a child lights a candle and one of the seven Kwanzaa principles slated for that evening is discussed. Those principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

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