The Symbols of Kwanzaa

Here's what you need on your table to celebrate Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and two supplemental ones. Each represents values and concepts reflective of African culture and contributive to community building and reinforcement. The basic symbols in Swahili and then in English are:

Mazao (The Crops)
These are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.

Mkeka (The Mat)
This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.

Kinara (The Candle Holder)
This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.

Muhindi (The Corn)
This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.

Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles)
These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, the matrix and minimum set of values which African people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.

Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup)
This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.

Zawadi (The Gifts)
These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.



Dr. Maulana Karenga is creator of Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba; professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach; chair of The Organization Us and the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO); author of the definitive book on Kwanzaa titled Kwanzaa, A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture. For current information on Kwanzaa see: www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org and for information on The Organization Us see: www.Us-Organization.org.

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