However, most respondents knew the story behind Kwanzaa. Overall, only about 4 percent of respondents did not know that Kwanzaa was created by an American in the ’60s.
Howard student Dominique Alexis said the classroom might be the best place to teach young people about the history and tenets of the holiday. “I think that [Kwanzaa] should definitely get more recognition,” she said. “We did one day of Kwanzaa [in high school], where we would watch a movie. So I think if we started out early, [Kwanzaa] would become more prevalent.”
Age wasn’t the only factor in the responses. A little more than 5 percent of respondents were white, and 16 percent of them indicated that they currently celebrate Kwanzaa. A third of white respondents have celebrated Kwanzaa in the past.
More than two-thirds of respondents have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, and the majority of those who celebrate Kwanzaa have graduated from college. Not surprisingly, respondents with college degrees were also most likely to know the origin and principles of Kwanzaa. Also, while two-thirds of all respondents were female, around a third of male respondents and a third of female respondents currently celebrate Kwanzaa.
Only 45 percent of all respondents believe that Kwanzaa is a real holiday. While thoughts on Kwanzaa’s validity were split down the middle among Millennials, those born between 1965 and 1981 were most likely to not consider Kwanzaa a true holiday — even though almost a third of them celebrate the holiday themselves.
“I think it’s more like an accessory holiday. It’s kind of like part of the whole end-of-the-holiday-season, kind-of-complementary [holiday],” said 27-year-old Web development consultant Marcus Finley. “There are so many holidays going on. You have Hanukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa. It’s just in the season of giving and giving back — and love and family.”
Joshua Weaver is The Root‘s editorial intern.