Habari Gani? Kwanzaa begins

12/21/2012–HI Y’ALL! It seems this post has drawn a great deal of interest in the last month. I have all of my Kwanzaa posts stashed on this page if you want to read further, and I will certainly do updated posts every year as I learn more. Thanks for reading!

The Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) of the Seven Days of Kwanzaa, image source: thetoymaker.com

If there was any doubt about whether the title of this blog was a literal description, this’ll learn ya. LOL

I am reprinting this old Facebook note of mine to get you ready for this week…each day for the next seven days I will go a little more depth about the day’s principle. I am always learning more about Kwanzaa and expanding my celebration of it, so I will begin this year’s observance by sharing it with all of you.


Okay….let me preface this by saying I am not the foremost expert on Kwanzaa. I have yet to do a full 7-day celebration, but I am in charge of the New Year’s Day celebration at my church, and I am constantly reading and researching to be more knowledgeable about this observance.

(taken from This Far By Faith, An African-American Resource for Worship developed by Lutheran congregations. Additional resources from www.reasontoparty.com)


In recent years, many African-Americans have begun to celebrate the festival of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a cultural rather than a religious festival. It is not affiliated with any particular religious faith or tradition. Kwanzaa affirms ethical principles that emanate from traditional African societies and that resonate with the ethical traditions of the major religious traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Civil rights activist Maulana Karenga formulated and introduced Kwanzaa in 1966 to encourage African American families to build upon the spiritual strengths of their cultural heritage. On each of the seven days of Kwanzaa–December 26 to January 1–candles are lighted to signify seven foundational principles (Nguzo Saba, listed below). Various combinations of red, green and black candles may be used. (Though typically, there is one black candle in the center flanked by three red candles to the left and three green candles to the right of the black center candle.)

Many African Americans related Kwanzaa to their Christian faith and traditions. The rituals associated with Kwanzaa are familial and take place primarily in the home, but on occasion they are adapted for use in congregational settings. Some who celebrate Kwanzaa in this way call its observance “Christkwanzaa,” while others simply observe it as a cultural festival.

The following are activities and practices that may be observed on the days of Kwanzaa:

* Families may place a straw mat, mkeka, on the table as a sign of the tradition that is foundation for the celebration.

* On the first day of Kwanzaa, the mtume (leader), calls the family together. When everyone is present, the mtume greets them with the words “Habari gani” (“What’s the news?”) and the family responds, “Umoja” (unity). On each succeeding day, the principle associated with that day is named.

* A member of the family offers prayer while all are still standing.

* The group then says, “Harambee” (“Let’s pull together”), a call for unity and the collective work and struggle of the family. Each member raises up the right arm with open hand and, while pulling the arm down, closes the hand into a fist.

* “Harambee” is repeated in sets of seven in honor and reinforcement of the Nguzo Saba, Kwanzaa’s seven spiritual and cummunal principles.

* The group sings a Kwanzaa song.

* The leader talks about the concept of Kwanzaa and the principle of the day.

* An elder performs the tambiko (libation), pouring juice or water in honor of the ancestors.

* A family member, preferably a youth, lights the candle appropriate to the day.

*After the lighting ceremony is complete, a story, song, or object reflective of the principle of the day is shared, and a scripture passage related to the principle may be read.

* The family distributes zawadi, handmade gifts.

* The leader conducts a closing prayer.

* On December 31, a karamu, African-style feast, may be eaten, often without Western utensils, and accompanied by indigenous music.



UMOJA (unity)

To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Umoja stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community. Even though we are descended from people who were scattered throughout the world, where they spoke many tongues and adapted to many influences, we are still, in most ways, one people. This shared unity of common heritage and spirit is honored on the first day of Kwanzaa.

KUGICHAGULIA (self-determination)

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for, and spoken for by others.

Kujichagulia requires that we define our common interests. Like our ancestors, we must be independent, strong-willed and in charge of our own destiny as individuals, as families and as a united community. Self-Determination is celebrated on the second day of the festival.

UJIMA (collective work and responsibility)

To build and maintain our community together and make our sisters’ and brothers’ problems our problems and to solve them together.

The third day of Kwanzaa gives recognition to Ujima: the idea that, by working together and taking responsibility for our own actions and those around us, we honor our forefathers and insure our own well-being and that of our children.

UJAMAA (cooperative economics)

To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and the profit from them together.

Ujamaa emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support. Together, we can use our joint resources to do the many things yet undone that will protect and improve the lives of our families and our community.

NIA (purpose)

To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Nia, the theme of Kwanzaa’s fifth day, encourages us to set personal goals. Recognizing how our own goals fit into those of our family and community, and understanding the purpose behind our actions, helps us to reach those goals.

KUUMBA (creativity)

To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

The sixth day of Kwanzaa celebrates Kuumba, the ability we all have to put our imaginations to work, to make our ideas a reality, even to make our dreams come true, for the good of ourselves and our society.

IMANI (faith)

To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Imani helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to triumph in the struggle for what is right. Faith, the final and perhaps most important Kwanzaa principle, is the focus of the seventh day.




The bendera is a flag created by Marcus Garvey to represent our people. It is black to represent our people, red to represent our struggle, and green to represent our hope for the future.


The mkeka, a straw placemat woven with beautiful patterns, is placed on our Kwanzaa table to represent tradition and history. It acts as the literal and symbolic foundation on which our knowledge and understanding are built.


The kinara is a candleholder fashioned out of wood, and has seven places. These places hold the Mishumaa Saba, or the seven candles.


Each candle represents one of the Nguzo Saba—the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The black center candle is surrounded by three red candles to the left, and three green candles to the right—another expression of our people, our struggle and our hope.


Kwanzaa is a Swahili word which means “first fruits of harvest.” Accordingly, we present these fruits and vegetables—mazao—as a reminder of the abundance of the earth and the rewards of collective and productive labor.


An ear of corn—muhindi—is placed on the mkeka to represent each child in the family and the hopes and challenges attached to them. It is also a reminder of our abundance—in our land and our families.


The zawadi are the gifts presented by the children to their parents as a token of thanks for all that has been given to them. They are usually handmade, but are always items given from the heart.


The kikombe cha umoja, or unity cup, is used to pour tambiko or libation to honor our ancestors. In home celebrations, it is also drunk from by all who are present as a ritual to reinforce unity in the family and community.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Habari Gani? Kwanzaa begins | Practicing Christian
  2. dramaqueen1913
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 04:46:57

    Reblogged this on wtpdiaries and commented:

    No sense in re-typing what’s essentially unchanged–Happy Kwanzaa 2013! Habari Gani?


  3. manifesting abundance
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 11:30:44

    This is a topic which is close to my heart… Take care!

    Where are your contact details though?


  4. eyeLaugh
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 23:57:53

    Wow a bunch of info I never knew about. Great job!


  5. Trackback: Kwanzaa Is Here | Young's Blog

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