What Is the Meaning of Kwanzaa Candles?


Kwanzaa candles play a central and symbolic role in the African American holiday. Each of the seven candles and corresponding colors symbolizes the seven days of the festival's tradition, its people, their struggles and hopes.


Each of the candles, known collectively as mishumaa saba, represents one of the Seven Principles, or set of values, for the African American culture. The candles are usually displayed as a centerpiece throughout Kwanzaa.


The central black Kwanzaa candle symbolizes the African American people and a sense of unity. It is lit first during observance. Three red candles placed left of the black unity candle each stand for the plight and struggles of the African American community. Three green candles on the right represent future dreams and promises.


A new candle is lit each night of the observance. The center "unity" candle is lit first, followed by lighting the outermost red candle, the outermost green candle, and then alternating red and green each night.


Kwanzaa candles are displayed throughout the ritual as a remembrance of the African American struggle against injustice. These and other symbols such as the unity cup, ears of corn, and sheaves of grain are a way to honor tradition and help pass along family virtues to future generations.


Some families let the youngest or oldest member light the candle, while some alternate each night. Whoever lights the candle may share a story or symbolic meaning he or she experienced that day.


  • Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa
  • Kwanzaa Candles
  • Kwanzaa Candles

Who Can Help

  • The Official Kwanzaa Web Site
Keywords: Kwanzaa candle, Kwanzaa symbol, Kwanzaa observance

About this Author

Mitch Morgan is a writer in Nashville, Tenn. Since 2005, he has written more than 100 articles, reviews and features for the Web, newspapers, and "Nightclub & Bar Magazine." Morgan attended Ole Miss where he received his B.A. in print journalism in 2006. Former editor of a weekly arts and entertainment guide, he maintains a passion for film and music in the media.

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