On December 26, Kwanzaa celebrations will begin and last until January 1, the new year. According to the University of Pennsylvania's African Studies Center, in 1966, professor, activist, and author Dr. Maulana Karenga created the holiday for people of African descent in America. As for the word "Kwanzaa" itself, Oprah Daily reveals that it comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which translates to "first fruits" and refers to African harvest festivals.
"Five common sets of values are central to the activities of the week: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration," the African Studies Center writes. "The seven principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa utilize Kiswahili words: unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), purpose (Nia), creativity (Kuumba), and faith (Imani)." Each day of the holiday focuses on one of these principles.
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The seven principles are also symbolized by the seven candles (Mishumaa Saba) of the Kinara (candleholder), which highlight the colors of the Pan-African flag designed by activist Marcus Garvey: red, black, and green. Each color also has its own meaning.
Other Kwanzaa symbols include crops (Mzao), corn (Muhindi), a unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja), and gifts (Zawadi), which are all displayed on a mat (Mkeka) to represent African heritage and tradition.
While these symbols are central to Kwanzaa, celebrators also tend to decorate based on their own traditions and preferences. Over on Instagram, we found plenty of inspiration for those who are also looking for Kwanzaa decor ideas. Below, we've included a few standout designs.
1. Hand-Stamped Books
User @aneshia_'s Kwanzaa setup includes hand-stamped "Happy Kwanzaa" books sealed with twine and a bit of pine. We love how the colors for "Kwanzaa" match the colors of the Mishumaa Saba (seven candles).
2. Pillow Covers
Instagrammer @neneb223's decor incorporates Kwanzaa-themed pillow covers that match the rest of their neutral decor. "Kujichagulia" refers to one of the seven principles, self-determination — to take it a step further, you can switch out your covers for each one of the seven days.
3. A Vibrant Backdrop
Ibi Zoboi — author of The People Remember, a Kwanzaa story for people of all ages — emphasizes her Kwanzaa display with a royal blue fabric curtain. We love how it beautifully draws attention to the symbols on the Mkeka (mat).
4. A Kinara of Amber Bottles
Interior designer Kenzie Leon Perry of Ze Haus Design Studio (@ze_haus) opts for amber glass bottles instead of a candleholder for their Kinara. It perfectly complements the rest of the black, white, brown, and cream color palette.
5. A Kwanzaa Tablescape
Party planners @sofestively took their Kwanzaa spread and created a stunning tablescape around it. Between the patterned fabrics, pink and yellow flowers, and assorted baskets, there is an incredible amount of dimension on this table.
6. A Crafty Touch
We couldn't resist sharing this photo from @montessoriandcoco's account because we love the children's craft featuring a Kinara behind the actual Kinara. Plus, it looks like they also had their kid color in some paper corn, making for an adorable Kwanzaa decoration that doubles as a fun family activity.
7. Plants Galore
User @botanicalblackgirl's Kwanzaa setup is framed by leafy green friends that emphasize the Kinara and other Kwanzaa symbols in the center. We're also fans of the window in the background, which adds a lovely amount of natural light to the display.