LifeHolidays and Celebrations


Why Are There Seven Candles For Kwanzaa?

Seven days and a new candle for each one — that's the years-long tradition of Kwanzaa.
Posted at 4:31 PM, Dec 16, 2022

One day following Christmas, the first candle is lit. And for six days after, families ignite red and green candles, culminating with a finale on the seventh day, called Karamu. 

Some Black Americans have lit these flames in celebration of their African heritage for more than 50 years — with each candle representing one of the seven founding principles of "Nguzo Saba." 

The first one is "Umoja," which symbolizes unity. Then there's "Kujichagulia," meaning self-determination. Next, is "Ujima," representing collective work and responsibility — followed by Ujamaa, Nia, Kuuma, and Imani. 

With these seven Swahili words, Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, gave Black Americans a sense of pride in their African roots and created an alternative celebration to Christmas. Kwanzaa is also spelled with an additional "a," so that it also has a symbolic seven letters. 

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