How to Build Kinaras and Menorahs

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For those who celebrate Kwanzaa or practice Judaism, building your own kinara or menorah can infuse a special meaning into the holiday season. Here is a quick guide on how to build your own kinara or menorah, plus a brief history on what these candelabras are all about.

Kinara History

A kinara is a special candle holder associated with Kwanzaa, a celebration in honor of African culture that runs from late December to early January. Kwanzaa incorporates seven principles in its celebration, which is why there are seven candles in every kinara. The seven principles include faith, creativity, purpose, cooperative economics, collective work, self-determination, and unity. During Kwanzaa, followers set three green candles on the right side of the kinara, three red candles on the left, and one black candle in the middle. A candle is lit daily during Kwanzaa celebrations in honor of each of the seven principles.

What Do the Colors Represent?

Each candle color represents a specific meaning for those who celebrate Kwanzaa. The black candle represents African people, the red candle symbolizes past and present struggles, and the green stands for a promising future. The candles are lit starting from the left to right and are usually displayed alongside other symbols of the Kwanzaa season.

Building a Kinara

Traditional kinaras are made out of a solid block of wood, but you can build a modern kinara with a plank of wood and seven small jars. For this project, you will need a 2-foot long wood plank, wood stain, seven glass jars, spray paint, hot glue, and tea candles. Start by staining the wood to your desired colored. While the wood is drying, spray paint three of the jars red, three of them green, and one of them black. Once the spray paint and stain has dried, hot glue the jars long the board, clustering the colors together while keeping the black jar in the middle. After the jars are securely in place, you can insert the tea lights in each jar and light them during Kwanzaa.

Menorah History

candles on a menorah

Menorahs have an important place in the history of Judaism. These lamp stands date back to biblical times and are used in Hanukkah celebrations around the world. Each Hanukkah menorah contains nine candle holders for each day of the holiday (there are eight days in Hanukkah). A new candle is lit on every evening of Hanukkah. The ninth candle on the menorah, referred to as the Shamash, is used to light the rest of the candles. The Shamash is typically raised higher or lower than the rest of the candles on the menorah. Menorahs are usually openly displayed during Hanukah.

What Do the Candles Represent?

The candles in the menorah represent a time in Judaism when the temple in Jerusalem was reclaimed by the Maccabees. As the story goes, the soldiers discovered the sacred temple in ruins and only had enough oil to burn a single lantern for one night. The light, however, lasted eight days, which was considered a miracle. When followers of Judaism light each candle, they remember the miracle and recite a prayer in remembrance of their ancestors.

Building a Menorah

You can build a simple menorah with just a few candle holders, a piece of wood, hot glue, and nine candles. You can pick whatever candle holders you like—just make sure one of the holders is taller or shorter than the rest. Start by laying out the candles on the wood, making sure they are evenly spaced. If you cannot find a taller candle holder that matches the others, you can raise it by using a block of wood as a shim. Once you have figured out the layout, glue the candle holders in place and stick the candles inside. The candle holder should catch all of the wax drippings. You can sub out the wood plank if you have a mantel in your house or a place to securely place the candles.