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Celebrate Kwanzaa!

Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration that begins on December 26 and lasts until January 1. Each day recognizes an enduring principle of African life. What better way to celebrate than with great food, fun and educational activities and time with your family and friends!


KWANZAA is a time for reflection on the many values that bring the African-American family and community together. There are seven principles to focus on one for each day of the week-long celebration.


Together, the Nguzo Saba (Swahili for "seven principles"), spell out the fundamental guidelines that govern the best elements of African-derived life. Each principle has a Swahili and an English name, and each is symbolized by a candle in the Kinara.


December 26 Umoja / Unity
Umoja stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community. Even though we are descended from people who were scattered throughout the world, where they spoke many tongues and adapted to many influences, we are still, in most ways, one people. This shared unity of common heritage and spirit is honored on the first day of Kwanzaa.

December 27 Kujichagulia / Self-Determination
Kujichagulia requires that we define our common interests. Like our ancestors, we must be independent, strong-willed and in charge of our own destiny as individuals, as families and as a united community. Self-Determination is celebrated on the second day of the festival.

December 28 Ujima / Collective Work and Responsibilty
The third day of Kwanzaa gives recognition to Ujima: the idea that, by working together and taking responsibility for our own actions and those around us, we honor our forefathers and insure our own well-being and that of our children.

December 29 Ujamaa / Cooperative economics
Ujamaa emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support. Together, we can use our joint resources to do the many things yet undone that will protect and improve the lives of our families and our community.

December 30 Nia / Purpose
Nia, the theme of Kwanzaa's fifth day, encourages us to set personal goals. Recognizing how our own goals fit into those of our family and community, and understanding the purpose behind our actions, helps us to reach those goals.

December 31 Kuumba / Creativity
The sixth day of Kwanzaa celebrates Kuumba, the ability we all have to put our imaginations to work, to make our ideas a reality, even to make our dreams come true, for the good of ourselves and our society.


January 1 Imani / Faith
Imani helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to triumph in the struggle for what is right. Faith, the final and perhaps most important Kwanzaa principle, is the focus of the seventh day.




The celebration of Kwanzaa is not complete without the display and use of seven important symbols, which can be displayed in an attractive setting in your home. During the Karamu many of the symbols are used in the ceremony. Each has its own significance and plays a separate role. Each is a simple but elegant expression of the meaning of Kwanzaa.

1. Mkeka / Straw Mat
The Mkeka reflects a reverence for tradition. It is the foundation on which all other values are based, so all the other symbols are arranged creatively on and around it, as the Kwanzaa centerpiece. Ideally, it should be a simple straw mat, but if none can be found or if you prefer, a cloth with an African-inspired print is a good substitute.

2. Mazao / Crops
These are fresh fruits and vegetables apples, bananas, carrots, squash, etc. that are placed in a simple basket or bowl, to symbolize a unified effort. (Note: use only hardy fruits and vegetables; bananas, for example, should be green on the first day of Kwanzaa, so they don't get over-ripe.)

3. Dried corn
Use one ear of dried corn to represent each child in the family or at the Karamu gathering. Even households with no children, however, should place two ears of corn for male and female on the Mkeka, to symbolize the African concept of communal parenthood.

4. Zawadi / Enriching gifts
These symbolize the sharing and generosity of the African community. The gifts should be simple, affordable, and related to African themes and culture. A cloth doll, a necklace, a storybook or a simple instrument are good examples. Using Kuumba (creativity) in the making or choosing of gifts is particularly encouraged, so anything that can be hand-made, should be. Gifts are usually exchanged on January 1, but can be given at any time during Kwanzaa.

5. Kikombe cha umoja / Unity cup
The unity cup represents continuity with ancestors and the strength of the family and the community. The cup is used during the Karamu (see Feast) and the participant may either drink from it, or make a sipping gesture.

6. Kinara / Candleholder
The Kinara will be used to hold seven candles and it symbolizes the continent and peoples of Africa. A Kinara can be purchased in many specialty shops, but if you can't find one, it is easy to make from almost any piece of wood. Again, simplicity and Kuumba are important. (Note: the Kinara is not to be confused with the Menorah, the Jewish religious symbol, which holds eight candles.)

7. Mishumaa saba / Seven candles
Each of the candles is a symbol in itself, representing one of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. All seven candles are present in the Kinara throughout the holiday. The black center candle, representing Umoja, is lighted on the first day and another on each subsequent day. The three red candles to the left of the Umoja candle symbolize struggle and the three green ones to the right represent hope. On the second day, a red candle is lighted, to symbolize Kujichagulia; on the third day, a green candle is lighted, representing Ujima; then red for Ujamaa, green for Nia and so on, until all seven candles are lighted on Jan. 1st.



Pumpkin Bread
1 pkg of Bountiful Beer Bread
12 oz can orange soda
15 oz can pure pumpkin
2-4 tsp. Instant Mulling Spice

Mix Bountiful Beer Bread, pumpkin, soda and Instant Mulling Spice for 20-30 seconds. Bake in an 8X8 pan at 375 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Sprinkle Instant Mulling Spice on top.

Hot Spiced Apples
6 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 to 1/3 cup sugar 3 Tbs. water (to cook apples with)
2 Tbs. Instant Mulling Spice
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. water (to mix with corn starch)
1 Tbs. corn starch

Combine first five ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cover and simmer until apples are almost tender. Blend 2 Tbs. water and 1 Tbs. corn starch; add to the hot apple mixture: cook and stir until bubbly. Serve as a side dish or over waffles, pancakes or ice cream.

Sweet Squash
1 acorn squash
1/3 cup Instant Mulling Spice
1/4 cup butter
2 Tbs. Vanilla Drizzle

Cut squash in half; discard seeds. Bake squash with cut side down, on baking sheet at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn squash over, cut side up, and return to baking sheet. Divide Instant Mulling Spice and butter between halves. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Top each half with Vanilla Drizzle. Serve warm.

Corn Bread
1 pkg Bountiful Beer Bread
15 oz can creamed corn
1/3 cup oil (NO beer or soda)

Mix all ingredients for 20-30 seconds. Pour into bread pan and bake for 50-55 minutes at 375 degrees. Can also be made into mini loaf pans or muffins.

Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake
1 pkg Cranberry Orange Bread mix
2 egg
1 cup water
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. water

Combine cream cheese, 1 egg, sugar and 2 Tbs. water. Set aside. Whisk 1 cup water and 1 egg for 15-20 seconds. Stir in Cranberry Orange Bread mix. Set aside 1 cup of batter, pour the rest into a greased springform pan. Top with the cream cheese mixture. Add the 1 cup of Cranberry Orange batter by spoonfuls to top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool and top with Vanilla Drizzle or Vanilla Creme Fraiche

Vanilla Creme Fraiche
3 Tbs. Vanilla Drizzle
2 Tbs. sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream

Beat whipping cream with sugar until it peaks and starts to form. Fold in Vanilla Drizzle and sour cream. Serve on top of Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake.

Sweet Potato Pie
2 cups cooked Sweet Potato
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg (canned may be used)
3/4 cup Milk
4 Tbsp. melted Margarine
1 tsp. Vanilla
3 Eggs
1/4 cup chopped Pecans
1 Cup Sugar
1 9" Pie Shell, baked
1 tsp. Cinnamon

Mash sweet potatoes together with melted margarine. Mix in eggs, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add milk and vanilla and pour into the baked pie shell. Top with chopped pecans. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35-45 minutes until sweet potato is set.

Kwanzaa Activities:


Show African Movies
Make Collages of African images & Kwanzaa gifts
Take out the old photograph album and tell your children about their people
and their ancestors and relatives. Show some movies (from the library or the video store) about Africa and about her people.

Take the children to the library or put them onto the World Wide Web for an "Africa"
scavenger hunt for information about Africa.

Create a family tree.

Do some arts and craft activities (good for children of all ages).

Make collages (family or Africa), Kwanzaa gifts, etc.

Have children write an essay or poem to be read at the Karamu.

Have children plan the Kwanzaa meals and assist them with the cooking.

Make an Oware game and play!

Oware (Mankala) Game
The Oware game is played in many parts of Africa. In East Africa it is called Mankala , in South Africa it is called Ohoro and in the west, it is called Oware or Ayo .

What You'll Need:
48 Small, Smooth Stones or Large Beans
1 Empty Egg Carton
Two Players

Place four stones or beans in the bottom of each of the 12 cups. The first player picks up all the stones from any cup and starting with the next cup to the right, drops one stone at a time into each successive cup. After the first player drops the last stone in the cup, they then pick up all the stones in THAT cup and continue to drop one in each consecutive cup. The first player's turn ends when they have put the last stone in an empty cup. The second player then takes their turn by choosing any cup of stones and takes a turn exactly like the first player. A player scores when they drop the last stone in a cup with three others, making four stones in a cup. The player then puts all four stones in their "bank". If the player puts a stone in a cup with three others and it is not the last stone, the other player puts the four stones in their bank. The player who gets the next to the last four stones gets the remaining stones on the board. The player who gets the most stones in their bank, wins the game!


Zawadi (gifts that are enriching/educational/artistic, i.e. heritage books) 

Gifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Egypt, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history.

Make a Kinara Centerpiece: You may wish to add additional painting to the small terra cotta pots for added color. Feel free to decorate your Kinara any way you wish. 

What You Need
3 Red short taper candles 
3 Green short taper candles 
1 Black short taper candles 
7 Small terracotta pots 
1 Very large terra cotta dish (the dishes that go under the pots) 
Black craft paint 
Red craft paint 
Green craft paint 
Gold "Painters" paint markers 
Artificial gourds and other harvest items, loose or garland 

How To Make It
Note: The reason the craft calls for the short tapers, is that the tall tapers are too top heavy and tend to tip the small pots over. 
Paint the terracotta dish in black. Let dry. Paint another coat, if needed, and let dry. 
Paint 3 terracotta pots green. Let dry. Paint another coat, if needed, and let dry. 
Paint 3 terracotta pots red. Let dry. Paint another coat, if needed, and let dry. 
Paint 1 terracotta pot black. Let dry. Paint another coat, if needed, and let dry. 
Use the Gold paint marker to write along the outer lip (or side) of the terracotta dish the principles of Kwanzaa. Let dry. 
Add the tapers to the small pots, adding a small clay ball in the bottom of the pot to aid the taper in standing straight. 
Arrange the pots in the dish. 
Fill in the area around the pots with the artificial gourds and other harvest items. 
Enjoy your Kinara and your holiday. 

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