Updated on January 1, 2023
Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrating African American culture. First started in 1966, Kwanzaa runs from December 26 to January 1, with each day dedicated to observing one of seven principles:
- Umoja (“Unity”)
- Kujichagulia (“Self-determination”)
- Ujima (“Collective work and responsibility”)
- Ujamaa (“Cooperative economics”)
- Nia (“Purpose”)
- Kuumba (“Creativity”)
- Imani (“Faith”)
Of course, not all Black people celebrate Kwanzaa; I’ve never celebrated it, myself. However, Kwanzaa has gotten some attention in the media, including comics and animation. Below are some prominent depictions of Kwanzaa in cartoons. Note I’ve covered a few of these already, in my post on animated holiday specials featuring people of color.
The long-running PBS Kids cartoon “Arthur” features an entire cast of sentient talking animals. However, they still represent various real-world cultures, and that extends to the holidays. The 2000 holiday special “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas” shows that Arthur’s friends all celebrate different holidays: Francine’s family celebrates Hanukkah; George’s family celebrates St. Lucia’s Day; finally, the Brain’s family celebrates Kwanzaa. In the latter’s case, his family also offers a Kwanzaa-themed special at the ice cream shop they run: an ice cream sundae with red, black, and green colored scoops, reflecting the holiday’s official colors (and the Pan-African flag).
“Arthur’s Perfect Christmas” usually airs on PBS during the holidays, and is also available during December on the PBS Kids streaming app. It’s also available on DVD.
Aaron McGruder’s comic strip “The Boondocks” (which ran from 1996 to 2006) ran several storylines about Kwanzaa, which GoComics has collected here. One storyline has Huey realize he forgot about celebrating Kwanzaa; he was distracted by several other then-recent hijinks, including his bizarre conspiracy theory about Santa Claus. Several strips also note a few reasons why Kwanzaa isn’t more widely celebrated.
By comparison, the Adult Swim TV spin-off apparently only mentioned Kwanzaa in passing.
Ray Billingsley’s comic strip “Curtis” traditionally did annual special storylines, which ran around Kwanzaa. The strips usually didn’t involve the regular “Curtis” cast, featured more stylized artwork, and had folklore-like plots.
Molly of Denali
PBS’ “Molly of Denali” has two holiday-themed episodes:
- “Tooey’s Hole-i-day Sweater”: Molly and Tooey try to repair a hole in Tooey’s holiday sweater.
- “The Shortest BIrthday”: The gang celebrate Trini’s birthday, which falls on December 21, the same day as the winter solstice.
Both episodes show Trini and her father put up a few decorations for Kwanzaa; the holiday’s trademark candles are seen in their living room window.
These two episodes are usually available on the PBS Kids streaming app during December. Otherwise, they’re available for sale digitally. Neither episode is available on DVD.
The Proud Family
“The Proud Family” ran on Disney Channel from 2001 to 2005, but only had one holiday episode. The first season episode “The Seven Days of Kwanzaa” sees the Proud family celebrate, and learn about the true meaning of, both Christmas and Kwanzaa.
The episode’s available on Disney+, as well as digitally. The show isn’t available on DVD (save its series-ending TV movie).
Nickelodeon’s original “Rugrats” run featured several episodes about Jewish holidays (Passover and Hanukkah), as well as a Christmas episode. The show also had an episode about Kwanzaa. In season seven’s “A Rugrats Kwanzaa,” Susie’s great-aunt pays her family a visit, with Susie (and the babies) learning about Kwanzaa.
“A Rugrats Kwanzaa” is available to watch on Paramount+. It’s also available to buy digitally. The episode’s also on the show’s season 7 DVD set (now out of print).
Photo by Askar Abayev (Pexels)