Do you celebrate Kwanzaa or know about this special holiday?
We have received many requests over the years to share Kwanzaa yoga ideas. At first, I felt uncomfortable sharing a holiday that I hadn’t personally experienced, being Canadian born, from British parents, and married to an Australian.
However, now that we are living in the United States, I felt it was important to learn about Kwanzaa with my daughter. We started by taking a bunch of books out of the library.
We pored over the Kwanzaa books, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the seven days of Kwanzaa celebration are very much in alignment with the Yamas and Niyamas in the ancient yoga scriptures by celebrating positive human qualities.
It was fun to watch my daughter light up when learning about something new and exciting! Some basic facts that we learned about Kwanzaa:
- Dr. Maulana Karenga created the Kwanzaa holiday in 1966 as a way for African Americans to celebrate their heritage.
- Families celebrate Kwanzaa for seven days between December 26th to January 1st by coming together.
- Each day, people celebrate a different human characteristic to be proud of, which is shared in Swahili, an African language.
- The seven themes are unity, self-determination, working together, supporting each other in business, purpose, creativity, and faith.
- To begin the celebration of the principle each day, the families start by asking, “Habari gani?” (“What is happening today?”)
Whether you already celebrate Kwanzaa or if you are new to the holiday, we would like to share some recommended books that we enjoyed and some Kwanzaa-inspired yoga poses below—so that you can add some movement and fun to this special holiday.
It would also be lovely to enrich the experience by hosting a guest speaker to share their experiences of Kwanzaa, listening to African American music, or making Kwanzaa recipes, for example.
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FICTIONAL KWANZAA BOOKS FOR KIDS
We found the books below in our local library, but they are also available on Amazon. Check your local libraries or bookstores to see what they recommend, as well. There is nothing better than learning something new directly from a picture book, in my opinion!
My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa
by Lisa Bullard and Constanza Basaluzzo
This was my favorite of the books because it is super simple, straightforward, and colorful–perfect for young children.
My First Kwanzaa
by Karen Katz
Karen Katz is known for her colorful, engaging books for toddlers and preschoolers, and this one is perfect for that age group to learn about Kwanzaa.
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa
by Donna Washington and Shane W. Evans
This story follows a rabbit who is trying to find a special treat for his sick grandmother. It is inspired by an African-American folklore tradition and demonstrates the importance of coming together to help others, the true meaning of Kwanzaa.
Together for Kwanzaa
by Juwanda G. Ford and Shelly Hehenberger
This story follows Kayla and her family as they get ready to celebrate Kwanzaa. Kayla is sad because she is waiting for her big brother to arrive to join in the festivities. The story emphasizes the importance of family coming together to honor this special holiday.
NON-FICTION KWANZAA BOOKS FOR KIDS
Seven Candles for Kwanzaa
by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
This nonfiction book has with beautifully illustrated images and is more suitable for elementary-aged children. The book outlines the history of Kwanzaa and the meaning of the seven candles and principles, incorporating key Swahili words.
Both of these books below have simple text suitable for young children and colorful real life photos:
Kwanzaa: Holidays Around the World
by Lily Erlic
by Lori Dittmer
6 KWANZAA YOGA POSES FOR KIDS
When African American families get ready for Kwanzaa, they put together several symbolic items on the table in preparation for the seven-day celebration. The yoga sequence below honors all those special items, including the straw mat, unity cup, ears of corn, candleholder, candles, and gifts. This is the start of this joyful, colorful holiday!
1. PRETEND TO BE KIKOMBE (UNITY CUP)
How to practice Dancer’s Pose: Stand tall in Mountain Pose. Then stand on your right leg, reach your left leg out behind you, and place the outside of your left foot into your left hand. Bend your torso forward, with your right arm out in front for balance, and arch your leg up behind you. Switch sides and repeat the steps. Pretend to be the Unity Cup at the table.
2. PRETEND TO BE KARAMU (FEAST)
How to practice chair pose: Stand tall in Mountain Pose with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees, and keep a straight spine. Hold your hands out in front of you. Pretend to be sitting at the table with family where you sing and tell stories.
3. PRETEND TO BE MUHINDI (CORN)
How to practice Locust Pose: Lie on your tummy, lift your chest and shoulders, and look up. Pretend to be a piece of corn that is represented for each child in the family.
4. PRETEND TO BE ZAWADI (GIFTS)
How to practice Cobbler’s Pose: Sit on your buttocks with a tall spine, bend your legs, place the soles of your feet together. Pretend to be sitting down and opening the gifts for Kwanzaa.
5. PRETEND TO BE KINDRA (CANDLEHOLDER)
How to practice Half Shoulder Stand: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms resting alongside your body, and chin tucked in. On an exhale, push your palms down and lift your legs straight up, making an L shape with your body. Stay in this position or squeeze your belly and raise your hips. Then bend your elbows and place your palms on your lower back for a half shoulder stand. Pretend to be representing the seven candles in the candleholder. There is one black candle for the African American people, three red candles to represent their suffering, and three green candles for hope for a good future.
6. PRETEND TO BE MKEKA (STRAW MAT)
How to practice Resting Pose: Lie on your back with your arms and legs stretched out. Breathe and rest. Pretend to be the straw mat on the table in preparation for Kwanzaa.
CHECK OUT OUR HOLIDAY YOGA IDEAS FOR KIDS
YOGA POSES CELEBRATING HOLIDAYS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Imaginative and fun ways to celebrate a variety of holidays.
This e-book has a total of eighteen playful and engaging yoga sequences that you can copy or print off and practice with your children in the classroom or at home.
Pretend to be a tiger for Chinese New Year, practice partner poses for Mother’s Day, and stand like the Sierra Madre Mountains to celebrate Mexican Independence Day.
Twelve poses are provided for eighteen holidays in a thoughtfully ordered sequenced for ease and flow.
This digital download includes twelve yoga poses for eighteen holidays from around the world, straight-forward instructions, and colorful visuals.
It’s a perfect addition for in the classroom, playroom, or anywhere else kids practice yoga!
Purchase the Holiday Yoga Ideas for Kids.
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