President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses wished a happy Kwanzaa to those celebrating, as the first day of the holiday honoring African heritage and Black American culture kicked off on Monday.
“Jill and I wish everyone a happy Kwanzaa,” Biden said in a video with the first lady, adding that they “give thanks to the rich heritage of African Americans, which is deep in the story of our nation.”
Since its creation in 1966, Black families have celebrated Kwanzaa every year from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. The holiday is based on the first fruit celebrations and cultures throughout Africa, and is meant to unite Black Americans in community.
“During this celebration, millions will gather with their families to reflect on the struggles and triumphs of the past and look towards a brighter future,” Jill Biden said. “With each candle you light, we hope your home is warmed by the laughter of your family and friends, your hands are inspired to creativity, and your heart is filled with determination, faith and love.”
Each day, families light a new candle on the kinara ― a seven-branched candleholder ― beginning with the Black candle in the center, and then alternating between the red candles on the left and the green candles on the right. The kinara is placed on a table with a mat and crops, such as ears of corn.
The seven days of Kwanzaa represent the seven principles of pan-African culture: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
“In 2023, it’s our hope that we will all remember the wisdom of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, especially the values of unity and faith, as we work to make the promise of our nation real in the lives of every American,” the president said.
Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff released their own video commemorating the holiday, with the vice president recollecting memories of celebrating Kwanzaa with her family.
“My favorite principle was always the second ― Kujichagulia, self-determination,” Harris said. “The power to design your own life and determine your own future. And it is a deeply American principle, one that guides me every day as vice president.”