Kwanzaa Celebrations

For seven days, from December 26 to January 1, African-Americans celebrate their African heritage and affirm seven important principles of community and family life. As with most holidays, traditional foods play a central role.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The colors of Kwanzaa -- green, black, and red -- often are visible on the holiday table, along with the symbolic elements. Serve these African-inspired foods during your celebration.

Symbolic Elements of the Kwanzaa Table

African-Creole Turkey Gumbo
  • Mkeka (m-kay-cah): a straw mat representing tradition as the foundation on which everything else rests.
  • Kinara (kee-nah-rah): a seven-branched candleholder symbolizing the ancestors. A candle is lit each day.
  • Mshumaa (mee-shoo-maah): the seven candles representing the principles that are the focus of the celebration.
  • Muhindi (moo-heen-dee): ears of corn, standing for the children, or potential for children, and hence posterity.
  • Kikombe cha umoja (kee-coam-bay cha oo-moe-jah): the unity cup that is passed from guest to guest filled with a libation to honor the ancestors.
  • Zawadi (sah-wah-dee): small gifts that reward personal achievement


Turkey-Seafood Gumbo This hearty meat and vegetable stew will satisfy a crowd.

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Corn Sticks Be sure to make extra -- individual servings of hot cornbread always disappear fast.

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Beef and Groundnut Stew Peanut butter adds a unique flavor to this hearty option.

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Collard Greens with Coconut Milk Coconut milk gives this Southern staple an exotic touch.

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Pinto Beans and Rice With ham and sausage mixed in, this can be a main dish or a hearty side.

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Sweet Potato Biscuits Who can resist the yummy yam in any form? Pass the butter!

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