Each of Kwanzaa’s seven principles has special meaning. Learn the meaning behind the Swahili words and how they can be applied to everyday life.
The Nguzo Saba: Kwanzaa’s Seven Principles
Umoja | Unity | Dec. 26
To strive for and maintain unity in family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia | Self-Determination | Dec. 27
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
Ujima | Collective Work and Responsibility | Dec. 28
To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa | Cooperative Economics | Dec. 29
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia | Purpose | Dec. 30
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba | Creativity | Dec. 31
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.
Imani | Faith | Jan. 1
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Traditional Kwanzaa Symbols
Bendera | Liberation Flag
Represents Black people around the world, the struggle for freedom, and a prosperous future.
Mazao | Crops
Representing African harvest celebrations.
Mishumaa Saba | Seven Candles
Each representing the principles—or values—Black people should live by. There are three red, three green, and a single black candle in the kinara.
Mkeka | Straw Mat
Represents tradition and history; foundation.
Muhindi | Ear of Corn
Each ear of corn placed on the mat represents children living in the home or future children desired.
Kikombe cha Umoja | Unity Cup
A symbol of togetherness—both the principle and practice.
Kinara | Candleholder
Usually wooden, and representing Black people’s connection to the African continent.
Zawadi | Gifts
Like many other holiday celebrations, gifts are exchanged and represent the sacrifice and bond of parents, and their children’s achievements.
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