A summary of the holiday as given by the Akwansosem African Studies Program Outreach of the University of Wisconsin at Madison in March, 1990:
Five common sets of values are central to the activities of the week: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration. The seven principles (nguzo saba) of Kwanzaa utilize Kiswahili words: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). The seven candles represent these principles. As in the Jewish festival of lights, Hannukah, candles are used to signify the concepts of the holiday.
The symbols of Kwanzaa includes crops (mzao) which represents the historical roots of African-Americans in agriculture and also the reward for collective labor. The mat (mkeka) lays the foundation for self-actualization. The candle holder (kinara) reminds believers in the ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries. Corn/maize (muhindi) signifies children and the hope associated in the younger generation. Gifts (Zawadi) represent commitments of the parents for the children. The unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja) is used to pour libations to the ancestors. Finally, the seven candles (mishumaa saba) remind participants of the seven principles.
Akwansosem Outreach Newsletter
It is interesting that the word meaning "faith," imani, bears a striking similarity to the Hebrew word emunah which means faith as well.
The word imani also resembles the words immanence and Immanuel or God-with-us.
The festival of Kwanzaa also uses a candelabra called a "kinara."
Kinara art by Joni Anderson
The center candle is black, for the face of the African people. The green candles represent springtime and hope, while the red candles represent blood.
On December 31, which is both New Year's Eve and the evening before the last day of Kwanzaa, a feast called "Karamu" is suggested.
Alice N.T. Reid (Khadijah) explains the Karamu feast
Items suggested by Linda M. Dano for Karamu:
When preparing for this special evening, special items, or symbols, are necessary. There are seven symbols. These items should be displayed as part of the Kwanzaa Karamu:
1) Mazao (fruit and vegetables)
2) Mkeka (place mat)
3) Kinara (candle holder for seven candles)
4) Vibunzi (ears of corn reflective of the number of children in the home)
5) Zawadi (gifts - usually for the children)
6) Kikombe Cha Umoja (community cup)
7) Mishumaa Saba (the seven candles)
The above is courtesy of Linda Dano's page on the Karamu feast.
The following information is adapted from the site Everything About Kwanzaa.
THE KWANZAA FEAST OR KARAMU
The Kwanzaa Karumu is traditionally held on December 31st (participants celebrating New Year's Eve, should plan their Karamu early in the evening). Prior to and during the feast, an informative and entertaining program should be presented. Traditionally, the program involved welcoming, remembering, reassessment, recommitment and rejoicing, concluded by a farewell statement and a call for greater unity.
Below is a suggested format for the Karamu program, from a model by Dr. Karenga.
- Kukaribisha (Welcoming)
Introductory Remarks and Recognition of Distinguished Guests and All Elders
Cultural Expression (Songs, Music, Group Dancing, Poetry, Performances, Unity Circles)
- Kuumba (Remembering)
Kuchunguza Tena Na Kutoa Ahadi Tena (Reassessment and Recommitment)
Reflections of a Man, Woman and Child.
Introduction of Guest Lecturer and Short Talk
Tamshi la Tambiko (Libation Statement)
It is tradition to pour libation in remembrance of the ancestors on all special occasions.
Kwanzaa, is such an occasion, as it provides us an opportunity to reflect on our African past and American
Water is suggested as it holds the essence of life and should be placed in a communal cup and poured in the direction of the four winds; north, south, east, and west.
It should then be passed among family members and guests who may either sip from the cup or make a sipping gesture.
For The Motherland, the cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors, and their indomitable spirit
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise for tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle, and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the creator who provides all things great and small.
- Kikombe Cha Umoja (Unity Cup)
- Kutoa Majina (Calling Names of Family Ancestors and Heroes)
- Ngoma (Drums)
- Karamu (Feast)
- Tamshi la Tutaonana (The Farewell Statement)
Adapted from a Kwanzaa webpage template created by Web Diner Inc.,
with additional graphics by SandDancer Studios
The MIDI file for The Circle of Life was obtained from MIDI Filer