With the Kids

Lighting the Kinara for Kwanzaa

Guest Post by Renee of Cutie Booty Cakes

The first time I was introduced to Kwanzaa I was in high school and watched an African dance troupe perform and symbolically light the seven candles on the kinara – 3 red for the struggle, 3 green for hope and the future, and the black candle in the middle for unity. As I became older I heard more and more about Kwanzaa and now the word has become a normal part of everyone’s vernacular during the December holiday season. But what is Kwanzaa? Kwanzaa is a Kiswahili word that means first fruits. It is a celebration of African heritage started by Ron Karenga during the black nationalist movement in the sixties.

Starting on December 26 – January 1st, a candle is lit on a kinara to symbolize the principal of the day. The seven principals are:

  • Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • 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.
  • Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

In my family we light a candle daily and recite what the principle of the day means to each of us. My son is still young but he enjoys watching the candle lights. On the final day we celebrate the principal of faith and have a family get together. For more information about Kwanzaa you can watch the award winning documentary The Black Candle.

Renee RossRenee is the author of Cutie Booty Cakes, a parenting blog. She is also a Mommy and Family contributing editor for BlogHer.com, a Walmart 11 Mom and was named a Power Mom by Nielsen.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I knew the concept of Kwanzaa but didn’t know what the 7 tenants were. I wish more of us celebrated it as they are what all of us really should strive for ourselves and our communities. I am going to print this and share it with my daughter. Thank you.

  2. I had heard of Kwanzaa but didn’t know the history or meaning behind it before – very enlightening for such a short post, which equates to being exceptionally written. Thanks for sharing this with us!

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