All About Kwanzaa

January 9th, 2015 by

In case you missed it, every day of Kwanzaa this year we posted about one of the seven principles and symbols of the holiday.  Held from December 26 – January 1, Kwanzaa is modeled on African harvest celebrations. The holiday was created in the 1960s in the United States as a celebration that focused on strengthening African American families and communities.

Each principle and symbol below is named first in Swahili, then English.

Seven Principles of Kwanzaa:

  1. Umoja (Unity)
  2. Kujichgulia (Self-Determination)
  3. Umija (Collective Work & Responsibility)
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
  5. Nia (Purpose)
  6. Kuumba (Creativity)
  7. Imani (Faith)

Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa:

  1. Muhindi (corn) symbolizes children. Families place one ear of corn on the table for each child in the family. Families without children can present one ear of corn, meant to represent all of the children of the world.
  2. The Kinara (candelabra) symbolizes ancestry. Each day of Kwanzaa, another candle is lit on the Kinara.
  3. The Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles) symbolize the seven principles.The red candles represent ancestors, and the green candles represent the earth from which we get food. The single black candle is a tribute to Africa.
  4. The Mkeka (placemat) symbolizes tradition. Each of the items on the Kwanzaa table is placed on top of a woven placemat.
  5. The Kikombe cha Umoja (Unity Cup) symbolizes unity. Every night, when the candles on the Kinara are lit, everyone will drink from the Unity Cup, passing it from person to person.
  6. Mazao (The Crops) symbolize the harvest and hard work.
  7. Zawadi (Gifts) are given to children. They are typically educational and symbolize making and keeping commitments.

You can learn more about Kwanzaa at