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Symbols
   

Symbols of Kwanzaa - photo by AAHAA symbol is an item or an object that already has a name and represents something significant. It is renamed to give significance to a new group of people or person. The Evergreen tree family are evergreens from January to October of each year, around the middle of October they become Christmas trees, thus representing a symbol of Christmas.  

The symbols of Kwanzaa serve as instructive and inspirational objects that represent and reinforce desirable principles, concepts and practices as reflective of both traditional and modern concepts which evolved out of the lives and struggles of African-American people.  

Primary Symbols of Kwanzaa


  1. MKEKA (M-kay-cah)
    The Mkeka is a straw mat on which all the other items are placed. It is a traditional item and therefore symbolizes tradition as the foundation on which all else rests.
  2. KINARA (Kee-nah-rah)
    The Kinara is a candle-holder which holds seven candles and represents the original stalk from which we all sprang. For it is traditionally said that the First-Born is like a stalk of corn which produces corn, which in turn becomes stalk, which reproduces in the same manner so that there is no ending to us.
  3. MSHUMAA (Mee-shoo-maah)
    The seven candles represent the Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) on which the First-Born sat up our society in order that our people would get the maximum from it. They are Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
  4. MUHINDI (Moo-heen-dee)
    The ear of corn represents the offspring or product (the children) of the stalk (the father of the house). It signifies the ability or potential of the offsprings, themselves, to become stalks (parents), and thus produce their offspring -- a process which goes on indefinitely, and insures the immortality of the Nation. To illustrate this, we use as many ears of corn as we have children which again signifies the number of potential stalks (parents). Every house has at least one ear of corn; for there is always the potential even if it has not yet been realized.
  5. KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA (Kee-coam-bay chah-oo-moe-jah)
    The Unity Cup symbolizes the first principle of Kwanzaa. It is used to pour the libation for our ancestors; and each member of the immediate family or extended family drinks from it in a reinforcing gesture of honor, praise, collective work and commitment to continue the struggle began by our ancestors.
  6. ZAWADI (Sah-wah-dee)
    The presents (gifts) represent 1) the fruits of the labor of the parents, and 2) the rewards of the seeds sown by the children. Parents must commit their children to goodness which to us is beauty. We must commit them to good acts, good thoughts, good grades, etc., for the coming year and reward them according to how well they live up to their commitments. Goodness, again, is beauty and beauty is that which promises happiness to the family and community. For all acts, thoughts and values are invalid if they do not in some way benefit the community.
  7. KARAMU
    The feast symbolizes the high festive celebration that brings the community together to exchange and to give thanks to the Creator for their accomplishments during the year. It is held on the night of December 31 and includes food, drink, music, dance, conversation, laughter and ceremony.
Secondary Symbols of Kwanzaa
  1. NGUZO SABA (En-GOO-zoh Sah-BAH)
    Symbolizes the seven principles of Kwanzaa which were developed by Maulana Ron Karenga. The Nguzo Saba are social principles dealing with ways for us to relate to each other and rebuild our lives in our own images.
  2. BENDERA YA TAIFA
    The flag of Black Nationalism symbolizes the struggle of Liberation. The Red represents the blood of our ancestors; Black is for the collective color of all Black people, and Green reminds us of the land, life and new ideas we must continue to strive to obtain.
  3. TAMBIKO
    Symbolizes the libation by which honor is given in a special way to our ancestors and a call to carry out the struggle and the work they began. It clearly symbolizes the recognition of and respect for the contributions of those before us, our history and the models it offers us to emulate.
  4. HARAMBEE
    Symbolizes a call to unity and collective work and struggle. The word means Let's pull together!
  5. HABARI GANI
    What's the news; what's happening Swahili term used when greeting others.
  6. KWAHERI
    Swahili term used as an expression of parting with good wishes and an expectancy to meet again.

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