Kwanzaa: The African-American Christmas
By: Job X. Kent
The holidays are quickly approaching, and whether you are spending it with family or flying solo, this season can be hard for a couple of individuals for various reasons.
Despite which holidays you celebrate, how you commend them or why you think they are vital, it helps to stay concentrated on what truly matters to you. Are the holidays about the birth of Jesus, the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or the delight on your child’s appearances when they understand Santa has gone by them?
In spite of the fact that regularly thought of as an alternative option to Christmas, many individuals really celebrate both.
Dominique Neal says that the holidays were always strange in his household growing up. “My family has always celebrated both Christmas and Kwanzaa, but it was always weird because we were the only house on our block that did that. I didn’t understand it then but as I got older I realized my mom did it to remind me that though Christmas is cool, Kwanzaa was the holiday of our people.”
Neal, who is a graduate of Florida A&M University, remembers during his childhood going outside in his dashiki during Kwanzaa and everyone laughing at him because they thought he was wearing a dress.
“I couldn’t stand wearing those things,” Neal said as he laughed. “Sometimes I would wear it long enough until I got to school then take it off since I had a shirt on under it.”
Regardless of the reasoning, not everyone is aware of the reasoning for the founding of Kwanzaa and what it really stands for. As previously stated, it is often looked at as an alternative to Christmas. Though both holidays are different, the relate to each other in a few ways as well.
Kwanzaa promotes seven virtues, or basic principles for life—one principle for each of the seven days of the festival. These virtues are rooted in traditional African philosophies of life. Chairman of the Humanities and Theatre Department, Darryl Scriven, gives insight on those philosophies.
“Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday that follows Christmas and follows the principles of Uganda sanda,” said Scriven. “There are seven candles. One is lit each day that a principle is recited, discussed or celebrated. And gifts are given that are made to reflect personable giving of one’s self to others in their group or family.”
The most vital word in his description was ‘made’. Those that celebrate Kwanzaa will make a gift from scratch, whereas when celebrating Christmas, every department store in chaotic.
The seven-day holiday was founded by Maulana Karenga, a black nationalist who later became a school teacher. Karenga’s idea of Kwanzaa began as a method for joining together and engaging the African-African people in the outcome of the lethal Watts riots. Having displayed his holiday on traditional African festivals and celebrations, he took the name “Kwanzaa” from the Swahili expression, “matunda ya kwanza,” which signifies “first organic products.
“Christmas is fine, the other holidays are fine, but we notice that they really have nothing that roots and anchors our kids in terms of who they are. So, Kwanzaa was an exploration of that,” said Scriven.