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Which Kwanzaa unity cup is best?

The unity cup is a key symbol of the annual Kwanzaa celebration. It is also known as kikombe cha umoja. The unity cup is filled with water, wine or grape juice. Family members take a sip from the cup, raise it and announce “harambee,” which means “let’s pull together.” Each family member does the same in turn. 

The eldest of the group always goes last and ends the ritual by pouring the liquid on the ground in the directions of the four winds to honor the family’s ancestors. If you are looking for a simple wooden cup, take a look at the Lion of Judah Olive Wood Communion Cup.

What to know before you buy a Kwanzaa unity cup

Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday that helps African Americans reconnect with their African heritage. The name Kwanzaa is taken from a Swahili word meaning “first fruits.” Each family celebrates in its own way with songs and dances, drums, storytelling, poetry reading and a large traditional family meal.

Each of the seven nights is dedicated to one of Kwanzaa’s seven principles. A child lights one of the candles on the candleholder, much like the Jewish tradition of lighting the menorah, and the family discusses one of the seven principles. The seven symbols are values of African culture that contribute to building and reinforcing a sense of community among African Americans.

The seven principles

  • Unity: Umoja is the principle of striving for and maintaining unity in the family, community, nation and race. 
  • Self determination: Kujichagulia is the principle of defining ourselves, naming ourselves, creating ourselves and speaking for ourselves
  • Collective work and responsibility: Ujima is building and maintaining our community together, making our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our own and striving to solve them together.
  • Purpose: Nia is the principle of making the building and development of our community our collective vocation, with the goal of restoring our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Creativity: Kuumba is commitment to the idea of always doing as much as we can so that we may leave our community better off than when we inherited it.
  • Faith: Imani is the principle of believing with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers and our leaders.

What to look for in a quality Kwanzaa unity cup

The seven symbols

  • Mazao is the crops, the historical foundation of Kwanzaa and the symbol of work. It is patterned around how African people gathered at harvest festivals in which joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving are the fruits of collective planning and work. Celebrants place nuts, fruit and vegetables on the mkeka.
  • Mkeka is the straw or cloth place-mat that symbolizes the foundation for us to stand on as our todays stand on our yesterdays. The mishumaa saba, vibunzi, mazao, zawadi, kikombe cha umoja and the kinara are placed directly upon the mkeka.
  • Vibunzi is the ear of corn that represents fertility. It symbolizes adding children to the family so future hopes are brought to life. One ear of corn is placed on the mkeka for each child. Two or more ears are referred to as mihindi.
  • Mishumba saba are the seven candles. They provide light and symbolize the sun’s power. Three candles are red, three are green and one is black. During Kwanzaa, one candle is lit each evening and the others are relit to provide more light and vision.
  • Kinara is the candleholder. It is the centerpiece of the Kwanzaa setting and celebration. Many families create their own kinara from fallen branches or pieces of wood. The kinara symbolizes the ancestors who are remembered and honored.
  • Kikombe cha umoja is the unity cup, the special cup used to perform the libation ritual that resembles the Christian rite of communion. The eldest family member asks the ancestors and the gods to share in the festivities and bless all the people who are absent from the gathering.
  • Zawadi are the meaningful gifts given to encourage growth, self-determination, success and achievement. Family members are encouraged to give handmade gifts to promote purpose, creativity, self-determination and to avoid the conspicuous consumption of the December holiday season. Recipients who accept gifts are morally obliged to fulfill the promise of the gift.

How much you can expect to spend on a Kwanzaa unity cup

Cups range in price from $10 and up, depending upon their size, type of wood and origin. Party sets start at around $10 and Kwanzaa kits cost $50 or more.

Kwanzaa unity cup FAQ

Is Kwanzaa just for families?

A. Kwanzaa focuses on the family but invites others to symbolically join in the celebration.

How do you decorate for Kwanzaa?

A. Kwanzaa celebrations include decorations of African art, clothing and fruits. 

What’s the best Kwanzaa unity cup to buy?

Top Kwanzaa unity cup


Lion of Judah Olive Wood Communion Cup

Lion of Judah Olive Wood Communion Cup

What you need to know: Share in the festivities and bless all the people who are absent from the gathering with this hand-carved chalice. 

What you’ll love: This 2.75-inch-tall Kwanzaa unity cup is hand-carved from solid olive wood. It has beautiful detail and is a true keepsake from the holy land. Each cup comes with a certificate of authenticity.

What you should consider: This is a smaller unity cup.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Kwanzaa unity cup for money

Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa Celebration Set

Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa Celebration Set

What you need to know: Everything you need to set up a Kwanzaa display is here in one package.

What you’ll love: Start your family’s Kwanzaa tradition with this Kwanzaa kit. You get the mat (mkeka), the unity cup (kikombe cha umoja), the candle holder with candles (kinara and mishumba saba) and a symbolic dish of corn kernels. 

What you should consider: The mat, cup and candles are hand-made.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Big Dot of Happiness DIY Kwanzaa African Heritage Party Cutouts

Big Dot of Happiness DIY Kwanzaa African Heritage Party Cutouts

What you need to know: Bring your Kwanzaa celebration to life with these 24 Kwanzaa cutouts.

What you’ll love: The cardstock shapes have a photo-like shine and are die-cut in the forms of three different Kwanzaa symbols. You get eight each of the mkeka (the mat), kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) and mishumba saba in kinara (candles in the candle holder). You can use them as craft tags, cupcake toppers, scatter them as table confetti or hole-punch them for stringing. 

What you should consider: These Kwanzaa-themed products are made in the United States.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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