Explore the traditions and rituals followed by African families on Kwanzaa. Here are the details of the various symbols of Kwanzaa that marks the importance of this celebration. Each Kwanzaa symbol is imperative and denotes on unique feature of this festival.

Symbols of Kwanzaa

Mazao – (Crops which includes fruits, nuts and vegetables)

It symbolizes the work and basis of holidays. Mazao signifies the foundation of Kwanzaa and marks the community of African people who celebrate this festival. It is believed that the unity, sharing and happiness are the results of collective work.

The Africans believe that family is the center of social and economical base for developing any civilization. The festival of Kwanzaa was established to bring the bond between the families by corroborating their responsibilities and felling of commitment.

In earlier times, the ancient African families did not care about the number of members in the family but, there was one leader who was the eldest male from the strongest group. This was the reason that the entire village was considered as one family. The features of any family followed same traditions and had common customary practices. All the families had one political view as; they descended from the same ancestors.

Each tribe had fixed set of norms which safeguarded their identity and provided sustainability. The laws were based on the value system of traditions related to birth, adolescence, parenthood, marriage, maturity and death.

Africans work very hard and believed in making their livelihood by growing plants and feeding animals. This is demonstrated through the celebrations on Kwanzaa with nuts, fruits, vegetables on the “Mkeka”.

Mkeka – (Place mat)

The mat is made of straw or cloth and symbolizes the culture, customs and history of Africa. It signifies the historical base present and future. It is believed that like today stands on yesterday similarly, the symbols stand on mkeka.

The seven days of Kwanzaa people share, study, recall and reflect the history which is carried to create the future. The ancient families made mats which were made with straw. It is dried seams of grains which are sowed and reaped.

Today, people get mkeka made from Kente cloth, African mud cloth and other fabrics. These are made and then mishumaa saba, the vibunzi, the mazao, the zawadi, the kikombe cha umoja, and the kinara are placed on it.

Vibuzi – Ear of corn

Fertility and reproduction of offspring is signified by the stalk of corn. The children are future of family and bring hope to life. Vibunzi is one ear and more than that it is called Mihindi. Each corn ear symbolizes one child of the family. On mkeka one ear is placed for each child. In some cases if, there are no kids at home then one pair of ear is placed on mkeka.

Kwanzaa customs believe that love and care bestowed on people during childhood should be returned selflessly to all the other children. This is specially implied for the homeless and helpless ones. This enhances the good deeds of respect, positive thinking, discipline, compassion, charity, empathy and hope among the future of the community i.e. children.

Each tribe in Africa is very protective about their children and works very hard towards their welfare.

Mishumaa Saba – Seven candles

Candles symbolize the power of Sun and are to illuminate. The group of 7 candles which are lit during Kwanzaa are traditionally named as, Mishumaa Saba. Red, black and green colored candles are used to light up the Kwanzaa period of seven days.

Black candle represents Umoja which means unity. Three green ones are on the lfet side of black one. These signify Nia, Ujima and Imani which means Collective Work and Responsibility, Purpose and Faith. There are three red ones also which are for Kujichagulia, Ujamaa and Kuumba. These depict self determination, creativity and Cooperative economics. These candles are placed on one candle holder which is called “Kinara”. This stand is in different shapes and sizes and signifies the ancestry of the African tribes.

Kikombe Cha Umoja – Unity cup

The unity cup is kept to perform the ritual of ‘tambiko’ on the sixth day of Kwanzaa. This religious ceremony of Kwanzaa is performed by African communities, which is a ritual on the living dead. It is believed that the last portion of libation would take people nearer to spirits and ancestors. This libation could be made of water, juice or wine and is given by the eldest family member to all the younger ones. This is shared to promote unity and oneness.

Zawadi – Gifts

On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, people exchange gifts to promote success, growth and self determination in their community. Elders generally pass on gifts to children and this sharing takes place within immediate family members.

Handmade gifts are more popular in the traditional families. People avoid buying things from stores and believe that personal gifts foster bond. The famous gifts are ‘kinaras’, dolls, cards and mkekas.

Wish you all enjoy the festival and hope you gathered information on symbols of Kwanzaa.