Kwanzaa Feast

The Kwanzaa Feast (Karamu) is usually held on 31st December. It is a very special event. This is a communal and cooperative effort. It is important to decorate the venue of Karamu. Prior to and during the Kwanzaa banquet, an informative and entertaining program is presented. Kwanzaa feast is the time to rejoice and commemorate the essence of Kwanzaa. Food at this feast is sumptuous. An account about the feast at Kwanzaa is harmonized below. 

Dishes at Karamu

  • The dishes served at the Kwanzaa feast vary from African dishes, Southern cuisine, Caribbean specialties, to customary South American fare.

  • The sumptuous food served at Karamu table includes African Tomato-avocado-buttermilk soup, fried okra, Mafe, Koki, Yams, lamb kebabs, Jollof Rice, peanut sauce, beef in tomato sauce, African vegetarian stew, yassa chicken, African Green pepper and spinach, benne cakes, fresh fruit salads and fruits for dessert, sweet potato fritters etc.
  • Usually the food is intermixed with culture, history, art and music, commemorating the Kuumba. Readings from preferred books, poetry and speeches are esteemed


Karamu Table Decor

  • Spread a red, green or black tablecloth on the table. Then place the mkeka (a straw place mat) at the table’s center. Set the kinara (a candle holder for seven candles) with candles on the mkeka.

  • Place a bowl of mazao (fruits and vegetables) and vibunzi (an ear of corn) for each child at home. If there are no children at home; use mihindi (two ears of corn) to indicate the concept of community parenthood.

  • On the mkeka, place Zawadi (gifts) to be exchanged. Set the kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) on the mkeka. When dinner is served, fill it with wine or grape juice.

  • After the guests have recited the tamshi la tambiko or libation statement, everyone drinks from the cup  and pass it on around the table. 


Main Parts to the Karamu

Following are main parts of Karamu based on the description of the Founder of Kwanzaa-Ron Karenga- 

Kukaribisha (Welcoming):
It includes introducing and welcoming guests and family to each other, sometimes, playing conventional music and games. 

Kuumba (Remembering):
All the guests tell a story along with the traditional music being played.

Kuchunguza tena na kutoa ahadi tena (Reassessment and Recommitment):
Generally a speech or story is delivered by the eldest or most respected guest or family member.

Kushangilia (Rejoicing):
Here many of the traditions and symbols come into play. A ‘grace’ (Tamshi la tambiko) is said over the unity cup (Kikombe cha umoja) before sharing it. A memory of family members and admired African Americans is said, followed by relishing the food, accompanied by music.

Tamshi la tutaonana (Libation or Farewell Statement):
Water placed in the communal cup (Kikombe cha Unoja), poured in four directions (north, south, east and west) and passed among family members and guests who either sip from the cup or make a sipping gesture. A closing sentiment is expressed at the end of the festivities.

At Kwanzaa feast, people relish the delicious food. They honor the African-American community, its culture and ancestors. The seven symbols of Kwanzaa are displayed during this seven day holiday (from 26th Dec to 1st Jan.) started in 1966. Each day of this festival is associated with its seven principles. A large Kwanzaa setting should rule the place where the Karamu will take place. It adds to the merriment of the Kwanzaa feast.