Kwanzaa is a celebration that focusses on traditional African values of family, community responsibility, commerce, and self-improvement. It was established in America in 1966 by Dr Maulana Karenga, and since that time it has come to be observed by more than 18 million people worldwide.
A word meaning “first fruits of the harvest” in the African language Kiswahili, Kwanzaa lasts from 26 December to 1 January, and is based on seven guiding principles, one for each day of the festival’s observance:
seen in the illustration, seven
symbolic objects have come to be associated with the observance of Kwanzaa:
the mkeka, the straw mat on which all other objects are placed;
the mazao (fruits and vegetables), which symbolize the harvest
origins of the holiday; the kinara, which is a candle holder
for the mishumaa, the three green, three red and one black candle
that represent the nguzo saba, or seven priniciples; muhindi,
ears of corn representing the children in the house and community; kikombe
cha umoja, the ‘unity cup’ and zawadi, gifts
for the children, which should always include a book and a heritage symbol.