Kwanzaa is an eight-day celebration of Pan-African culture and values through the lens of family, friends, and great food. If you’re ever lucky enough to go to a Kwanzaa celebration or to know someone who celebrates Kwanzaa, it’s a good idea to know how to properly greet them. It’s a way to show that you care, and it’s a great entry point for you to learn more about this harvest festival.
Habari gani (pronounced “hah-BAH-ree GAH-nee”) is the traditional greeting for Kwanzaa. The Swahili phrase is usually posed as a question and literally translates to “What is the news?” It’s similar to asking “How are you?” or more colloquially, “What’s up?” and can be used outside of just Kwanzaa.
Asking someone “How’s it going?” might seem a little informal in other circumstances, but it serves a real purpose in Kwanzaa celebrations because of the seven principles of the holiday. In response to habari gani, someone celebrating Kwanzaa might respond with the principle of the day. This probably won’t be expected of you, so don’t overthink it.
Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri (pronounced “KWON-zuh YEH-noo ee-wah nah heh-REE”) translates to “May your Kwanzaa be blessed.” It can look a little intimidating, but with a little practice, you can absolutely get the hang of it.
If you’re uncertain or unconfident about any of the above or you’re just caught unaware, don’t worry, you can go with a simple “Happy Kwanzaa!” Like a hedgehog holding a cake, it’s perfectly short, sweet, and effective.
Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of seven principles. Think of these as the tenets of the holiday. They’re the ideas that you should keep in mind as you celebrate Kwanzaa and hopefully internalize beyond the bounds of the holiday.
The seven principles are:
- Umoja (unity)
- Kujichagulia (self-determination)
- Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
- Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
- Nia (purpose)
- Kuumba (creativity)
- Imani (faith)
You can incorporate these principles into your greetings to make them more specific and special.
Umoja defines unity and togetherness in family, community, and just about every other facet of your everyday life.
- Wishing you and yours a day united in joy.
- May your family, community, and the world unite on this joyous occasion.
- I hope today brings harmony and solidarity to your life.
Kujichagulia is a commitment to defining identities and developing the self as a means of pushing against the historical, cultural, and physical struggles of African people.
- I hope your day is grounded in your own self-determination.
- May you continue to tell your own stories and shape a world in your own image.
- I hope you continue to define and understand yourself better.
Similar to umoja, ujima is also about togetherness, but it’s more about understanding that you have an active responsibility within your community. It’s understanding that your community’s problems are your problems, but that you can work together to solve them.
- May you continue to play an active role in your community.
- May your contributions to your neighborhood come back to benefit you tenfold.
- Hoping you continue to live the principles of communal work, cooperation, and responsibility.
Ujamaa is similar to both ujima and umoja. Ujamaa also focuses on togetherness and community, but from an economic angle.
- May you share your wealth within your community.
- Wishing for constant cooperation and sharing for you and your community.
- Hoping that you stay committed to sharing your wealth and work to break down inequality and oppression.
Finding your purpose in life is never easy, but nia helps a little by funneling your purpose into developing and defending your community.
- May you find your own purpose through work and investment in your community.
- Wishing you and your family a clear and constant sense of purpose.
- I hope you find a social purpose that benefits the collective whole.
Kuumba refers to creativity, but specifically using your creativity to benefit your community.
- I hope your creative pursuits continue to build new roads for you and your community.
- May you continue to find new creative pursuits today and into the new year.
- May your creative light continue to carry you through the difficult times.
Remember, Kwanzaa isn’t a religious holiday, but imani is about a faith or belief in people: families, community leaders, teachers, aunts, uncles, and beyond.
- May the faith of your family and loved ones lift you above times of hardship.
- May your belief in your community inspire the best in you and your life.
If you’re sending someone an email or message on social media or otherwise want to send a longer Kwanzaa greeting, you have the entirety of the English language at your disposal. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
Keep in mind that Kwanzaa is a generally secular (meaning non-religious) holiday, but you can and should fold in the principles where appropriate.
- Wishing you a joyous and blessed Kwanzaa!
- I hope Kwanzaa brings plenty of warmth and light to your home.
- May your Kwanzaa be full of fun, family, and great food.
- Happy Kwanzaa! Wishing you only the best and most bountiful fruits of the harvest!
- Wishing you unity, faith, and purpose during Kwanzaa and into the new year.
- I hope this Kwanzaa brings you even more joy with your family, friends, and community.
- Wishing you the joy and comfort of togetherness and community this Kwanzaa!
- May the lights of Kwanzaa bring joy, abundance, and new opportunities into your home!
- I hope this Kwanzaa gives you the time to slow down and appreciate the love, family, and communities in your life.
- May the seven principles of Kwanzaa guide you through the new year.