Every December, Christmas always comes front and center across the Western world. And for well over a century now, companies like Hallmark have helped make this happen. But as we all know, there are many great holidays that take place at the start of winter. And after years of audiences demanding more inclusion and variety, the Hallmark Channel is embracing them as well. Now, along with their complete 2022 Christmas movie lineup, they’ve just announced their first ever Kwanzaa movie — Holiday Heritage.
With this big step forward towards greater representation, a brand-new Hallmark audience can now see their culture being celebrated. And millions more viewers will get a chance to learn more about this beautiful holiday.
Kwanzaa History and Celebrations
Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration of African heritage and African American culture, starting on December 26th and ending January 1st.Unlike Christmas and Hanukkah — which started in ancient times — this holiday is extremely new. It was founded in 1966 by activist and author Maulana Karenga, who wanted to give black Americans an alternative to Christmas and a chance to celebrate something that’s completely their own. The name Kwanzaa is from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means ‘first fruits’ — a fitting name as it’s based on African harvest festivals.
Observances involve traditional African art and clothing, such as a kente or kaftan, along with drumming, musical selections and pouring out libations for ancestors. Many will have open discussions about African principles and history, a candle lighting ceremony, and various artistic performances. And on the very last day, everyone gathers around for a communal feast called a Karamu.
The big centerpiece of this whole celebration is a large wooden candle holder called a kinara. Most families typically surround theirs with a wide range of seasonal fruits and vegetables. It holds seven candles with the same colors as the Pan-African flag— three red ones on the left, three green on the right, and one black in the middle. Families light one new candle on one of the seven days, which also represent the seven principles of African Heritage — or Nguzo Saba:
- Umoja (Unity)
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
- Nia (Purpose)
- Kuumba (Creativity)
- Imani (Faith)
Although it was initially meant to replace Christmas for black Americans, many families today celebrate both holidays. Today, as many as 12.5 million people across the country celebrate it every year. However, this increasing popularity has garnered plenty of mixed opinions across the community. While many are happy to see greater representation, others are concerned about its increasing commercialization — as this conflicts with the original message and values.
Holiday Heritage Sees Returning Hallmark Stars
This first Hallmark Kwanzaa film stars Lyndie Greenwood and Brooks Darnell, along with Hallmark regular Holly Robinson Pete. And from the logline, and little that we know, we can already see where those seven principles will come into play.
Ella returns to her hometown to mend fences with her fractured family. With the help of Griffin, her ex-boyfriend, she encourages her family to celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa and to heal their past wounds before it’s too late.
This is Greenwood’s second Hallmark holiday movie, the first being last year’s Every Time a Bell Rings. She also had recurring roles on the CW’s Nikita and on FOX’s Sleepy Hollow. Darnell previously starred in 2019’s A Christmas Miracle and 2020’s Let’s Meet Again on Christmas Eve. He also had a recurring role on Shadowhunters and a major arch on The Young and the Restless from 2018 to 2019. And along with her many TV roles, including Judy Hoffs on 21 Jump Street, Robinson Peete has starred in eight Hallmark holiday films since 2015, including Christmas in Evergreen and its three sequels.
Holiday Heritage on Hallmark Channel
Holiday Heritage will debut on Hallmark Channel at 8 pm on December 16th, 2022, exactly ten days before the first day of Kwanzaa. We at the Elf Squad look forward to seeing it premiere, and what this will mean for representation in future Hallmark movies.