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How to Decorate the Kwanzaa Table

Kwanzaa culminates with the karamu —the Kwanzaa feast — on New Year’s Eve. Decorating the Kwanzaa table takes almost no time. You just need to know how to lay out the items properly on your table. The kinara (candleholder) should always be a focal point for the room it’s in. Place it in a room other than where you put your Christmas tree, preferably the dining room.

Here are some other tips for setting up your Kwanzaa table:

  • To protect your wood surfaces, place a red or green tablecloth on your table and then center the mkeka on top of that as either a table runner down the center, or as a large square table topper.

  • Place a kinara as the centerpiece of your mat. The black candle, which represents the people, goes in the middle. The three red candles, which represent continuing struggle, belong on the left. And the green candles, which represent the future, go on the right. You may also alternate the green and red candles ¯ one green, then one red ¯if you like.

    Together, all seven candles are called the Mishumaa Saba.

  • Place baskets and wooden bowls of fruit and vegetables around the kinara.

  • Arrange ears of corn ¯ one for each child in the household ¯ around the bowls in an attractive manner. Even if you don’t have any kids, you should use at least one ear of corn to represent the African concept of social parenthood.

Besides the basic table setup for Kwanzaa, you can get creative and inspired by creating an African-themed room where your table resides. Purchase some African art posters to hang. If you find African-inspired masks at import stores, or interesting carvings or beadwork, you can place these items around the room as well. Tropical plants can add a little life to your room and be used on buffet or dessert tables. After all, the feast is a major part of the holiday celebration; you’ll want to have plenty of items to accessorize your delicious spread.

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