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When Christmas and Hanukkah End, Kwanzaa Begins

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Kwanzaa, which started on the day after Christmas and runs seven days, was established in 1966 in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement and reflects that era’s concern for cultural awareness and the unity and the associated self-determination. The concept of Kwanzaa was the creation of Maulana Karenga, who is currently a professor and chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" meaning "first fruits" in Swahili, which is the most widely spoken African language.

The main tradition of the holiday involves seven candles that represent seven principles. The green candles represent the land and the red candles represent the blood that was shed by the African-American people. The black candle represents the people themselves.

Another part of the Kwanzaa tradition is the gift given on the final day of Imani, which means "Faith"

"You don't go out to the store to buy them, you make them," Lafern Joseph,owner of the Fern Tree store on South Division Street in Peekskill said. Joseph, an African-American community leader who celebrates Kwanzaa  said, "It gives them more significance."

According to Joseph, the biggest misconception about Kwanzaa is that you have to be black to celebrate the holiday.

"For a long time people said Christmas was a white holiday," Joseph said. "Tell that to all the different people that are buying gifts in the store. Kwanzaa's a holiday for everybody."

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