KWANZAA, the African-American cultural holiday conceived and developed by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, was first celebrated on December 26, 1966.

Kwanzaa is traditionally celebrated from December 26 through January 1, with each day focused on Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles. Derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits”, Kwanzaa is rooted in the first harvest celebrations practiced in various cultures in Africa.

Kwanzaa seeks to enforce a connectedness to African cultural identity, provide a focal point for the gathering of African peoples, and to reflect upon the Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles, that have sustained Africans.

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa – Nguzo Saba

1. UMOJA (UNITY) (oo-MOE-jah) – To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

2. KUJICHAGULIA (SELF DETERMINATION) (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah) – To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

3. UJIMA (COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY) (oo-JEE-mah) – To build and maintain our community together and to make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.

4. UJAMAA (COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS) (oo-JAH-mah) – To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit together from them.

5. NIA (PURPOSE) (nee-AH) – To make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

6. KUUMBA (CREATIVITY) (koo-OOM-bah) – To do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.

7. IMANI (FAITH) (ee-MAH-nee) – To believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

KWANZAA Symbols Overview

-Mkeka – mat
-Kinara – candle holder
-Mishumaa Saba – Seven candles representing the principles.
-Kikombe Cha Umoja – the unity cup
-Mazao – crops
-Vibunzi – ears of corn
-Zawadi – gifts
-Bendera – Flag

The Mkeka is a symbol of history and tradition. It is the base or foundation garment. All Kwanzaa symbols are placed upon the Mkeka.

Kinara (Ke-na-re) – Candelabra
The Kinara is imilar to a traditional menorah. Seven candlesticks are used in celebrating Kwanzaa aka/seven branches. Generally made of wood, they are significant of the thick African forests.

The seven candles, one black…three red… three green, represent the Nguzo Saba. The black candle goes in the center, three red on the left and the three green on the right. The second day the candies are lit on the left and the right alternately. The red candles represent the struggle and the green candles represent the fruitful future. Each candle lit the previous day is re-lit along with the candle of the day until the last candle has been lit on the last day of Kwanzaa.

The Unity Cup symbolizes the foundation principle of the Nguzu Saba, Umoja (Unity). It is used to pour Tambiko (Tahm-be-ko) -Libation for our ancestors. It is poured to represent the connection with our ancestors.This is a gesture of honor, praise and a commitment to acknowledge the journey of our ancestors

Mazao represents the historical roots of Kwanzaa as a harvest of “first fruit” cerebration. Mazao also represents the rewards of collective and productive labor. Most urban dwellers do not harvest crops, so fresh fruits and vegetables are used to represent the fruits of their labors.

Each house places one of the Mkeka (ears of corn)…an ear for each child. Even if the household has no children – at least one ear of corn is placed, beside the Kinara, to represent the potential for children.
Note: Kwanzaa serves to reinforce the relationship between parents and children because it is with the children that our hopes for the future rest. It is the parent who must guide and instruct the child toward principles and values which strengthen the family and aid its progress.

A book…gifts of knowledge and/or heritage symbols such as African art or picture of African-American hero, Handmade gifts. Never store bought or commercial gifts.

The Flags colors are Red, Black & Green. Black represents the African-American people, Red represents the experience of our people and Green represents our youth who are our future and hope for tomorrow.

Family Celebrating Kwanzaa




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