Each year, the African-American community pays homage to its families, friends, and spirit during the seven days of Kwanzaa, a holiday for people of any religion. But what about you and your sweetie — or that cutie you have your eye on? How can the two of you get in the holiday spirit? We have the answer with these fun, Kwanzaa-flavored dates. Now, you may not be able to pack them all in during the week of December 26th, when the holiday occurs this year, but keep these ideas on hand and let them add richness and an element of surprise to your dating life in the year ahead.
1. Make it a group get-together
The first day of Kwanzaa celebrates Umoja (ooh-MOE-jah), the unity among families and communities. Are we sending you out on a date with your parents? Absolutely not! A friendly outing with another couple or two is what we have in mind. It’s sure to bring you and your date closer while emphasizing the bonds you’re all building. This plan can take the pressure off if you’re inviting someone special out for the first time. And if you’re a twosome that’s been stuck in the “let’s rent a DVD” rut, it can add a nice change-up, too. Challenge the other duo to a bowling match, go ice skating en masse, or play a game of Scrabble. (Just remember to play nicely — there’s only one “m” in “Umoja.”)
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2. Go for the goal
The second day of Kwanzaa is all about Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-ah), which means self-determination. How do you put that into action when planning a date? Simple: You and your date should tackle something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time, whether that’s snowboarding, sushi prep or going back to church. Not only will you reach one of your personal goals, you’ll forge a new sense of connection with your date because you’re both outside of your comfort zones.
3. Think about others…
The third day of Kwanzaa focuses on Ujima (ooh-GEE-mah), which means collective work and responsibility. Think about rebuilding your community and helping out others who are less fortunate. (Yes, there’s a place for this in your romantic life — not all dates have to be about new restaurants!) On this kind of goodwill date, you and your sweetie can volunteer together at your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Perhaps there’s a charity walk or run that you two can participate in, or maybe you two will want to pick up a “Dear Santa” letter from your local post office, if they collect them, and make a child’s holiday wish come true. This kind of date will make you more appreciative of everything you have, including each other. Plus, you’ll get to see a generous side of your honey, which is always attractive.
4. Keep it low-key and cozy
Kwanzaa isn’t about fancy gifts and lavish entertaining. Rather, self-reliance and personal values take the place of commercial brouhaha. The fourth value of the holiday, in fact, is Ujamaa (OOH-jah-mah) — which embraces the idea of cooperative economics. How exactly do you plan a date that puts that into practice? Resist the courtship temptation to spend excessive amounts of money hitting the coolest new clubs and put a $10 cap on your evening. Yes, $10. Rent a movie, prepare a pasta dinner at one of your homes, and let the conversation take the place of a cover charge. Or break out a game of Monopoly and a hot, hearty drink to share and see which one of you is a Trump-style real-estate mogul in the making. You’ll save money, but come out way ahead in terms of closeness.
5. Focus on the future
The fifth key value of Kwanzaa is Nia (NEE-ah), meaning purpose—setting personal goals that can benefit the community. Now, that’s a pretty heavy topic, but it can lend itself to some very thoughtful dates, because the idea is to reveal more about what makes you tick and your hopes for the future. Always good stuff for moving a relationship to a deeper level. So consider these ideas: Have lunch with your date and someone you consider a mentor to you — whether it’s a former coworker who always has terrific professional advice or a married friend with an exemplary relationship. By introducing your sweetie to the people in your life you admire, you’re sharing more of yourself and your values. Another key aspect of Nia is reflecting on how previous generations have left their mark... are you ready to share some family history? Take your date to your favorite sweet shop that you’d visit as a kid or the diner where you and your siblings would always go for pancakes on Saturday morning. Swapping stories about your youth is a terrific way to bond.
6. Get creative
Ready for some good times? The sixth principle of Kwanzaa is Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah), and it means creativity. Embrace today’s theme by letting your creative juices loose! Sure, you could visit a gallery or paint pottery together, but why not kick it up a notch? If you live somewhere snowy, challenge your date to a snow sculpture contest; cozy up inside and have a holiday wrapping party (stock up on some plain brown paper and metallic markers and create your own gift wrap). If you two have been together awhile, consider signing up for a drawing class together. Sure, you could paint flowers or seascapes, but it’s sexier to draw portraits of each other — and then swap them as gifts.
7. Don’t forget about faith
Imani (ee-MAH-nee) means faith, and it’s the heartbeat of the last day of Kwanzaa. Now, obviously you two can worship together if that suits you, or you can interpret faith differently if you so choose. Faith can mean believing that you and the person you care about can achieve whatever you set your minds to. So why not start in on that always popular resolution — to live healthier — and invite your honey on an active date. Bundle up together and hike around a lake (or on a beach, if you’re lucky enough to live near one). Spend an afternoon snowshoeing and looking for critter tracks. Take a Bikram yoga class together. Support one another in achieving a personal goal, and you’ll be empowering one another to reach bigger goals, too.
Quick & Simple editor Ayren Jackson-Cannady has also written for Time Out New York and Suede.