Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa represents a different principle of the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles). When a new candle is lit each day it represents one of these principles.
Many families give the honor of lighting the candles to the youngest
child. Some to the eldest family member. Others might have a different family member lighting the candles each night.
The First Day of Kwanzaa (December 26)
On the first day of Kwanzaa the black candle is lit in the Kinara. The black candle represents the first principle – Umoja (oo-MOH-jah): Unity.
The person who lights the candle might make a statement about the first
principle and its meaning. Sometimes a passage or poem is read relating to what the principle means and how it relates to their life.
Then the Umoja (Unity Cup) might be filled with fruit juice and
shared among those gathered. Each takes a drink and passes to the next.
Some families prefer to use a Unity cup for each member, or the cup can just be left in the center of the Kwanzaa table.
After the sharing of the Unity cup the candles are extinguished till the next day.
The Second Day of Kwanzaa (December 27)
On the second day the black candle is again lit, as well as the
farthest red candle on the left. This represents the 2nd principle of
Kwanzaa –Kujichagulia (koo-jee-chah-goo-LEE-ah): Self-Determination.
Again a statement about the second principle and its meaning might be
made. Or possibly a passage or poem is spoken or read which relates to
what the principle means and how it relates to their life. The family
shares the Unity cup and the candles are extinguished.
The Third Day of Kwanzaa (December 28)
On the third day the black candle is lit, then the farthest left red,
and then the farthest right green candle. This represents the 3rd
principle of Kwanzaa – Ujima (oo-JEE-mah): Collective work and responsibility.
The third principle is discussed. The family shares the Unity cup and the candles are extinguished.
On the fourth day the black candle is lit, then the farthest left
red, the farthest right green. And then the next red candle on the left.
This represents the 4th principle of Kwanzaa – Ujamaa (oo-jah-MAH):Collective economics.
The fourth principle is discussed. The family shares the Unity cup and the candles are extinguished.
On the fifth day the black candle is lit, then the farthest left red,
the farthest right green, the next red and then the next green candle.
This represents the 5th principle of Kwanzaa – Nia (NEE-ah): Purpose.
The fifth principle is discussed. The family shares the Unity cup and the candles are extinguished.
On the sixth day the black candle is lit, then the farthest left red,
the farthest right green, the next red, the next green and then the
final red candle. This represents the 6th principle of Kwanzaa – Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah): Creativity.
The sixth day, which occurs on New Years Eve, is a special day. This
is the day of the Kwanzaa Karamu or Kwanzaa Feast. In the spirit of
celebration many families invite their friends and family to join in the
Create a party atmosphere with additional Kwanzaa decorations. Dress
up in traditional or traditional inspired clothing. Play African or
African American music. Cook your favorite foods and special holiday
dishes. Invite your guests to contribute to the feast by bringing along
their favorite dishes. The children and/or the Adults can perform plays,
read uplifting passages, poems or stories. Maybe one of the adults will
be a story teller for the day. Remember the principle of the day is
Kuumba (creativity). So be creative!!
On this special day we remember our ancestors when the Unity cup is
shared. After everyone has taken a drink the candles are extinguished.
But before the Karamu is over, the eldest member of those present
will read the Tamshi La Tutaonana (TAM-shi la Tu-ta-u-NA-na). The Tamshi
La Tutaonana was written by Dr. Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa, as a
farewell statement to the feast and the year.
Everyone stands as the elder reads:
Strive for discipline, dedication, and achievement inThen the elder leads the guests in the Harambee (ha-RAM-bee) salute.
all you do. Dare struggle and sacrifice and gain the strength that
comes from this. Build where you are and dare leave a legacy that will
last as long as the sun shines and the water flows. Practice daily
Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, and Imani. And may the
wisdom of the ancestors always walk with us. May the year’s end meet us
laughing, and stronger. May our children honor us by following our
example in love and struggle. And at the end of next year, may we sit
together again, in larger numbers, with greater achievement and closer
to liberation and a higher level of life.
Each person raises their right fist about as high as their shoulder,
then pulls down forcefully until the elbow is next to next to their
torso, saying “Harambee!” This is done seven times in unison.
This concludes the Karamu celebration.
On the seventh day the black candle is lit, then the farthest left
red, the farthest right green, the next red candle, the next green, the
final red and then the final green candle. This represents the 7th
principle of Kwanzaa – Imani (ee-MAH-nee): Faith.
The seventh principle is discussed. The family shares the Unity cup and all seven candles are extinguished. Kwanzaa is over.
use your creativity and imagination when deciding how to celebrate the
holiday. Over time you and your family will establish your own
traditions that can be enjoyed each year as well as passed on to the
You and your family can use great creativity in your observance of the holiday. Set up an area in your home for the Kwanzaa altar or table. Decorate your home in the same spirit as other holidays. Create posters and banners to hang on the walls, add African sculptures or other artwork. Crafts and decorations can be created to be used in your Kwanzaa display.