Kwanzaa symbols - Mkeka, Kinara, Mshumaa Saba, Muhindi, Zawadi, Mazao, Kikombe cha Umoja
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Welcome to's Kwanzaa page. Here you will receive a brief discription of the Kwanzaa celebration. It will include a Libation ceremony, the History & Purpose of Kwanzaa, the 7 Symbols of Kwanzaa, the Nguzo Saba, the Karamu feast, and Resources for learning more about Kwanzaa.

Before any celebration begins, it has to be called to order. One way is the Akan phrase: call - Ago and response - Ame, which means, "May I have your attention" and "You have my attention", respectively. Then, the master of ceremony must ask permission from the elders to commence. Once given, the Libation Ceremony may begin. It is tradition to pour libation in remembrance of our ancestors on all special occasions. It is usually passed throughout the family and community to promote the spirit of oneness. Kwanzaa allows us to reflect upon out African past and Pan African present and future. We pour in honor of Sankofa, an Ashanti word that means "Go back and fetch it," or learn from the past. We respond with ashe which means "so be it."

Kwanzaa was introduced to us by Dr. Maulana Karenga of California State University in 1966. "The whole idea was to create awareness and appreciation among U.S. Blacks of their own cultural heritage" and demolish negative self-images. He acquired the name of the celebration from the Ki-swahili phrase, "Matunda ya kwanzaa," which means first fruits of the harvest. It was borrowed from several firt harvest festivals of Eastern and Western Africa. Kwanzaa is rich in symbolism and meaning, sharing love and respect with our natural and extended family for it was the community's responsibility to grow the crops. Today, more than 500 million people of African descent celebrate kwanzaa with song, dance, art, and food. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January 1.

There are seven essential items needed for a Kwanzaa display. And each one has a very specific and special meaning. A sketch of the display is at the top of this page. These 7 Symbols of Kwanzaa are the:
  1. Mkeka
  2. Kinara
  3. Mshumaa Saba
  4. Muhindi
  5. Zawadi
  6. Mazao
  7. Kikombe cha Umoja

Kwanzaa has 7 symbols, 7 days in which it is celebrated, and it also has 7 principles which represent each day. These principles are called the Nguzo Saba. Each day you would greet someone with "Habari Gani," which means, "what's the news?" and the response would be whatever principle represented that day. For example, on December 31, if someone said "Habari Gani," the response would be, "Kuumba." They are:
  1. Umoja
  2. Kujichagulia
  3. Ujima
  4. Ujamaa
  5. Nia
  6. Kuumba
  7. Imani

Since we mentioned Kuumba, the largest ceremony, called the Karamu Feast, is usually held on December 31. This is a feast to which the community is invited. Each member brings a homemade dish to share. Decorations for the gathering include hand crafted artwork. The color scheme is the bendera ya taifa flag of our African-American people created by Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Red represents the blood that our ancestors shed during their struggles. Black represents the color of our people, for "Black is Beautiful." Green represents the bountiful Motherland Alkebulan (Africa). And Gold represents the riches that were stolen from Africa. Clothing consists of cultural and traditional garb which may include a gele and lapa for the ladies, and a dyshiki and kufi for the gentlemen. The Karamu is opened with a welcoming of the family. Then remembrance occurs in which there are cultural expressions, recollections and reflections by various members of the community. Next, the recommitment in which a speaker gives a short instructive presentation. Rejoicing follows. At the end of the celebration seven Harambees (lets all pull together) are shouted where the last one is held for a while. Many families host sleep overs during this night so that music, dance, art, food, Griots, etc. can usher us into the new year and final principle Imani. Imani is the day on which the zawadis are opened by the children.


  • Afrikan People and European Holidays: A Mental Genocide, by Ishakamusa Barashango
  • Kwanzaa: Everything You Always Wanted to Know But Didn't Know Where to Ask, by Cedric McClester

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