Kwanzaa Principles

December 27 is the second day of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa is celebrated for seven days and has seven principles. The word Kwanzaa is a Swahili word that translates to “first fruits.” The vocabulary used in the Kwanzaa tradition are Swahili and I will pronounce and explain them as we get to them. Kwanzaa, like Christmas, is a family celebration and is observed with others such as neighbors, church members or within fraternities and organizations. While there are different ways of celebrating, Kwanzaa include a large traditional meal, story telling, poetry, songs, dancing, reference to the elders and our ancestors and maybe an exchange of gifts.

Families celebrate all day but the candle lighting and the discussion of the days’ principle is done in the evening. The middle candle, the black one, is lit on the evening of the first day of Kwanzaa (December 26) and the first Principle, Umoja, (oo-MO-jah) which is Unity, is taught and discussed. Umoja: We must strive for and maintain Unity in our community, in our family and in out nation.


The kinara, or candle holder with seven candles will be placed on a mat (Mkeka). Originally, the mat (mkeka) was made from discarded straw that was woven into a mats or baskets. Today the mat reflects the household just as a tablecloth reflect a family’s tradition.

In front of the kinara will be some crop (mazao), corn along with fruits, nuts and vegetables. This represent our labor; for one cannot reap a crop without the collective work and cooperation of others. Some plant the seeds, some water, some pull weeds, some harvest. Without the work of everybody there will not be a crop.

The crop will include an ear of corn (vibunzi) for each child in the family and is a  symbol that the family’s future will continue in the children. If the family don’t have children, two ears of corn is placed on the mkeka (mat) because the adults are responsible for the kids in the village/community.

The candle that will be lit for tonight, December 27, is the red candle and the Principle for this second day is  Kujichagulia (pronounced koo-gee-cha-goo- LEE-yah) and translates to: Self Determination. We will be encouraged to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and  speak for ourselves.

Create for ourselves. I must say African American celebrities and those working in Hollywood certainly demonstrate the principle of ‘creating for ourselves’. They don’t sit around and wait to be cast in a movie, they produce their own movies and play the central character. Study the actors Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Ice Cube. Read about them and what they do. When/if you watch a movie they are in, pay attention to the credits and observe who produced the movie. The producer secures the financing for the movie, thus making their creation a reality. I won’t bother to mention Tyler Perry and all of his creativity. When these actors produce a movie they are providing jobs for others while they keep their name and face in front of the public. When they are not currently in a movie they remain they research, study and prepare for the next project that will hire some, entertain many and educate a few.

It is this very Principle of Self Determination, ‘create for ourselves and speak for our selves’ that is Kwanzaa’s driving force for gifting something that you made or  created.

The candle to be lit on December 28 is for the Principle of NIA (nee YA) which  is PURPOSE

Thank you for visiting here and please come again. It is my desire and intent to complete a series on Kwanzaa. If you would like to create a dish or an edible gift try this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s