The Lessons of Kwanzaa, as Taught by TV


December 26th wasn't just Boxing Day; it also marked the first day of the pan-African holiday celebrating African culture known as Kwanzaa. Founded in the mid-1960s by Maulana Karenga, a black studies professor at Cal State Long Beach, this holiday lasts from the day after Christmas through January 2nd. Each of the 7 days is assigned a principle to be honored: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Just as Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, American TV is relatively new to trying to capitalize on it. We've managed to dig up 7 television attempts to incorporate Kwanzaa into holiday programming.

1. Sesame Street Means Double the Kwanzaa

In Season 34, Sesame Street produced a segment in which a child explained the traditions of Kwanzaa and how his family celebrates:

Later in that same season, Elmo showed off a traditional Kwanzaa dance:

2. Even Rugrats Can Celebrate Kwanzaa

In their 7th season, Nickelodeon's gang of ageless toddlers the Rugrats branched out from the Christmas holiday episode with "A Rugrats Kwanzaa." Tommy Pickles' neighbor Susie Carmichael gets a visit from her Great Aunt T., who came to teach the whole Carmichael family about Kwanzaa. Airing in 2001, this particular episode was one of the first on mainstream television to feature Kwanzaa. It also inspired the aptly titled book The Rugrats' First Kwanzaa.

3. In the Future, There Are Kwanzaa Robots

Futurama never dedicated an entire episode to the holiday, but in "A Tale of Two Santas," they introduced an entirely new Kwanzaa character. Kwanzaabot, as voiced by 90s rapper Coolio, shows up at the Conrads' Kwanzaa party to drop some traditional knowledge on their guests.

4. Kwanzaa Is Not Materialistic (Unlike the Holiday That Precedes It)

Based on the youth of Chris Rock, the show Everybody Hates Chris used Kwanzaa to heighten the notorious thriftiness of young Chris's father. The patriarch Julius announces that the family will celebrate Kwanzaa instead of Christmas that year - once he discovers Kwanzaa is a much more cost-effective holiday.

5. Christmas and Kwanzaa Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Along with the Rugrats, animated Disney show The Proud Family was one of the first mainstream TV shows to dedicate an entire episode to Kwanzaa. When the Prouds take in a homeless family on Christmas, the family comes back the next day to return the favor - by teaching the Prouds about Kwanzaa.

6. Be Careful Who You Invite to Your Kwanzaa Party

On Saturday Night Live, Tim Meadows dropped by Weekend Update as “Kwanzaa Timmy” to explain the traditions of Kwanzaa - in song. You'll laugh, you'll learn and you'll feel slightly taken advantage of.

7. There’s No Such Thing as Kwanzaa Cake

Celebrity chef Sandra Lee caused an uproar with her Kwanzaa cake recipe a few years ago. Pretty much the only thing "Kwanzaa" about it was her use of Kwanzaa-colored candles. Some critics cried racism based on her ingredients, but almost everyone agreed the recipe was just terrible, and terribly stupid.

Since then, Food Network aired a much less maligned episode about Kwanzaa Traditions: