ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Thursday began the week-long celebration of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is celebrated over seven days to stress the importance of Nguzo Saba, or the Seven Principles.

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a way to “unite and strengthen African communities,” according to the Official Kwanzaa website. The holiday was adapted from the first-fruits celebrations of ancient Africa.

The Seven Principles

  1. Umoja- Unity.
  2. Kuji-chagulia- Self-determination.
  3. Ujima- Collective work and responsibility.
  4. Ujamaa- Cooperative economics.
  5. Nia- Purpose.
  6. Kuumba- Creativity.
  7. Imani- Faith.

There are also seven symbols associated with the celebration of Kwanzaa:

  • Mazao- The Crops
  • Mkeka- The Mat
  • Kinara- The Candle Holder
  • Muhindi- The Corn
  • Mishumaa Saba- The Seven Candles (one black, three red and three green)
  • Kikombe cha Umoja- The Unity Cup
  • Zawadi- The Gifts

Kwanzaa is celebrated in the home first by determining a location for the Kwanzaa Set which includes the seven symbols. Then the mat is spread on a table with the other symbols placed near it. One candle is lit every day beginning with the black candle.

Decorations for Kwanzaa include black, red and green. Each color has a different meaning. Other traditional African items like African blankets, cloth patterns and harvest symbols are used as decorations as well, according to the website.

Children receive gifts but the gift is supposed to “include a book and a heritage symbol,” the website said. “The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Egypt, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history,” the website also said.

Jan. 1st, at the conclusion of the holiday there is a “Day of Meditation” the website says. The day is a time of reflection for participants. Celebrants are instructed to reflect on their life and to reaffirm their commitment to African cultural values.