With Kwanzaa festivities kicking off Saturday across the country, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama offered their well wishes to those observing. The White House released a statement to mark the African-American cultural celebration that continues through Jan. 1.

"Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to families across the country celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season,” the Obamas said in a statement. “Today begins a weeklong celebration of African-American heritage and culture through family and community festivities. Kwanzaa’s seven principles – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith – are also shared values that bind us as Americans. And in the spirit of the season, we reflect on the blessings of the past year and commit to building a brighter future for all our children. As families, friends, and neighbors come together today to light the Kinara, our family sends our best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.”

Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas and is intended as a celebration of life, family and community. Originating during the civil rights movement, the holiday was founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor of black studies, to honor African-American heritage and culture.

Many events are planned this year throughout the country to celebrate Umoja, or unity. Celebrations include African drumming, family gatherings, singing and dancing. For every night of the weeklong festival,  families light a candle.