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Khrist Kwanzaa is a week-long African American holiday observed by Black Catholics

from December 26 through January 1

which focuses on the traditional African values of

family, community responsibility, commerce and self-improvement.


The name Kwanzaa is derived
from the phrase, "matunda ya kwana" which means, "first fruits" in Swahili.



Cultural rituals celebrated in your parish and community, not just at Christmas time but year round. The value centered principles of Kwanzaa are uniquely incorporated into a program of
self-development and community awareness.

 Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed.


The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans.


Pictured with his wife, Tiamoyo Karenga, Dr. Maulana Ndabezitha  Karenga, previously known as Ron Karenga, (born Ronald McKinley Everett, July 14, 1941) is an African-American professor of Africana studies, activist and author, best known as the creator of the pan-African and the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa.

The seven principles or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga

Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah)

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

Self-determination: Kujichagulia


To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.


Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima

(oo–GEE–mah) To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.


Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH)To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah) 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.

Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.


Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. A feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.

The seven celebratory symbols:

  • Mazao: Crops - Mazao symbolizes the fruits of collective planning and work, and the resulting joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving part of African harvest festivals. To demonstrate mazao, people place nuts, fruits, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.

  •  Mkeka: Place Mat - Just as the crops stand on the mkeka, the present day stands on the past. The mkeka symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for people to stand on and build their lives.

  • Muhindi: Ear of Corn - The stalk of corn represents fertility and the idea that through children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One vibunzi is placed on the mat for every child in the family.

  • Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles - Candles are ceremonial objects that serve to symbolically re-create the sun’s power, as well as to provide light. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle that are placed on the kinara.

  • Kinara: The Candleholder - The kinara represents our ancestry, and the original stalk from which we came.

  • Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup - On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the libation ritual is performed to honor the ancestors. Every family member and guest will take a drink together as a sign of unity and remembrance.

  • Zawadi: Gifts - On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, and success. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity.


Although Kwanzaa was a created to be a nonreligious holiday and was founded in 1966 by Dr. Karenga, to create and help build stronger communities between African Americans and their neighborhoods the BOWMAN-FRANCIS MINISTRY TEAM encourages Black Catholics to celebrate Khrist Kwanzaa in their churches as a parish family. Using Biblical verses with each Nguzo Saba Principle nightly or all together in a one day celebration as shown below.


Candle Lighting and Recalling

of the Seven Principles


Umoja  ‐ Unity  -  Ephesians 4:1-6


Kujichagulia ‐ Self Determination  -  Mark 5:25-34


Ujima ‐ Collective Work & Responsibility  -  1 Thessalonians 5.12-18


Ujamaa ‐ Cooperative Economics  -  Mark 12:38-44


Nia ‐ Purpose  -  Hebrews 13:1-7


Kuumba ‐ Creativity  -  Psalms 33:1-3


Imani: Faith  -  Matthew 17:14-20


It can celebrated in many different ways which often include prayer, libation, storytelling, songs and dance, culminating in a large meal.

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