KWANZAA BEGINS the day after Christmas, but people shouldn't mistake the timing as a substitute for celebrating the birth of Christ. People who observe Kwanzaa know it is more about their African heritage, cherishing family and striving to gain the ideals of the holiday in their own lives.

Kwanzaa, which begins Dec. 26 and lasts for seven days, is based on the traditional African harvest festival. The word Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase for "first fruits of the harvest."

Each of the seven days of the celebration is designated to stress the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, on which the holiday is based. The principles are unity, purpose, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, creativity and faith, and they stress the importance of family, community, responsibility, commerce and self-improvement.

To represent one of the focuses of the holiday, I made a loving Kwanzaa family with instructions I found on howstuffworks.com. You can download patterns for the project at tinyurl.com/kwanzaafamily.

Supplies you will need

* Tracing paper

* Pencil and scissors

* Decorative scrapbook paper or poster board in red, green, brown and yellow

* Stapler

* Craft glue

* Black fine-point permanent marker

* Patterns for bodies, heads and hats for each family member, plus the father's hands

How to make it

Download the Kwanzaa Family pattern, and trace and cut out the father's body pattern on red poster board or paper. Repeat for the mother's body pattern using green and the child's body pattern using yellow.

Trace and cut out two head patterns for the mother and father, one child's head and two father's hands from brown paper. Trace and cut out two hat patterns for the mother and father using green paper and one child's hat pattern from red paper. Glue the hats to the proper heads and set aside.

Bring the "arms" of the father's "body" together, overlapping them in front and stapling them together. Repeat with mother and child cutouts, and layer them one inside the other. Glue heads onto the bodies of the mother, father and child, and glue on the father's hands where his robe meets in front.