Symbolic Centerpieces

Combining the symbols of Kwanzaa in a centerpiece not only gives you a focal point for your table but for your nightly celebration as well.
The mkeka, mshumaa, kinara, and muhindi make up this Kwanzaa table.

A Kwanzaa display should include the items shown in the photo. You can arrange the elements as simply as you like or, for a large neighborhood or family gathering, build a more lavish display.

Mkeka Since this straw mat represents tradition as the foundation on which everything else rests, it should be at the base of your display. Select a large enough mat so that parts of it will still be visible after you've placed other items on top.

Fruits & Vegetables To emphasize the harvest theme of Kwanzaa, some people like to use whatever is available at the market for the centerpiece, while others prefer to highlight tropical foodstuffs, such as mangoes, papayas, and plantains.

If you plan to leave the centerpiece in place throughout the holiday, choose fruits and vegetables that will stay fresh-looking without refrigeration. These include winter squash, pumpkins, gourds, apples, and sweet potatoes.

Collect baskets and wooden or crockery bowls to hold the vegetables and fruits. To use fewer materials and still achieve a look of abundance, fill the baskets and bowls with crumpled newspapers, and then arrange the fruits and vegetables on top of them.

Mshumaa Seven candles in black, red, and green represent the principles that are the focus of the celebration: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Place them in a seven-branched kinara.

Muhindi Place one ear of corn in the display for each child in the family; even households without children should display at least one ear, representing the potential for children and your posterity

Kikombe cha umoja This is also known as the Unity Cup, which is used for pouring a libation to honor the ancestors.

Zawadi These are small gifts that reward personal achievement, to be opened during the holiday.

More Ideas:

  • Use small pedestals or stacks of books draped with fabric to raise some items higher than others and add visual interest to your display.
  • If you're still shopping for some of these symbols, check out the article "Building Kwanzaa Traditions Online" for beautiful kinaras and more.


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