[Queen] My Kwanzaa | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Queen] My Kwanzaa

As far back as my memory will take me, Kwanzaa has consistently been the best time of my life minus the early years when the horrors of the day prior (Dec. 25) invoked a spirit of deprivation because all my friends had new toys for Christmas. Kwanzaa celebrations in my home were always huge, family events. My parents went all out to make our Kwanzaa experience one we would carry with us all our lives.

As a child, Kwanzaa meant gifts and a good time with family and friends. Today, raising my own family, I realize I then didn't fully grasp the full significance of Kwanzaa.

My father was a serious Kwanzaa fanatic. This was a special time for him, for us. It was an opportunity for him to share with others what was most important to him: our culture, history and family. Kwanzaa is just that—a celebration of family and children. It's not just a time of gift giving and socializing. It's a time of building and encouraging. It's a time to celebrate what we are as a people, where we've been and where we are destined to go.

It wasn't long after my father's demise that my siblings began to celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa. I was irritated and disappointed that my family was so eager to participate in the commercialism Christmas had turned into. I had developed a disdain for Christmas because people spend so much money. By the time January rolls around, the only hope many have is waiting for their tax-refund check to catch up on bills they missed due to overspending during December.

I wasn't interested in the glamour Christmas embraced. Why did my sisters feel so compelled to tell their children that Santa was real instead of offering realistic information that would contribute to who they would become and actually assist in their mental development? Where did that desire come from? It surely didn't come from our parents.

Of course, that negative emotion didn't last long once I had a child of my own. I learned quickly that it is difficult to cultivate one tradition when the two parents do not agree on which tradition is more important. My son's father was raised celebrating Christmas and wanted to share that with his son, as I wanted to share Kwanzaa with him. Therefore, a compromise had to be made. We were never going to agree on just one holiday.

One thing we did agree on, surprisingly, was never to make Santa Claus a part of Christmas. We tried to concentrate on the reason for the season. We explained to our son that Christians recognize this holiday as the birth of Christ, but that the actual date is unknown.

After a while I found myself more settled with the idea of Christmas. I began to get all wrapped up in the holiday season. Who wouldn't? People seem different, happier and more pleasant to each other. I am a total sucker for Christmas movies. I never miss "It's A Wonderful Life," "Frosty the Snowman" and "A Christmas Carol." Each year I watch these movies like I've never seen them before. So it became easier not to deprive my son (or myself, admittedly) of that experience, which is what my sisters concluded long before I did. I suppose my angst came from Kwanzaa being so special to my dad, and I wanted to celebrate it as he did, just to keep him in my heart.

I remember my father explaining to me that it was Dr. Maulana Karenga, father of Kwanzaa, who initially recognized the need to impress upon those of us from African descent the values that should govern our existence. The seven principles of Kwanzaa, the Nguzu Saba, offer direction to the areas of life upon which we should lend our focus.

On each new Kwanzaa day, we discuss the principle of the day in regard to what we can do to help the black community. Decorations such as chain links made from construction paper (red, black, and green—the colors of the African flag) to represent the struggle of our people hang like garland. Each day we give a small gift such as pens, pencils, books, crafting materials, etc., to the children. The gifts should always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize African values and tradition, and the heritage symbol is to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history.

Just imagine the state of accomplishment and peace we'd welcome as a people if we actually applied these principles to daily living and to our personal attitude toward life. I remember wondering why, as a Methodist minister, my father opted not to celebrate Christmas at all, and only expose us to Kwanzaa. I realize today that my father didn't dismiss Christmas from our lives just to deprive us of gifts or because he despised the idea of Santa Claus. My father clearly had a higher plan for his children to gain a level of self that comes from sharing in a holiday such as Kwanzaa.

In his limited time, my father had to leave us with what would carry us through life—the values that would one day develop our personalities. He wanted us to be proud and strong. He wanted us to realize that to make the best of this life we must contribute to the world as a whole.

Being exposed to the seven principles of Kwanzaa has certainly done that for me. However, for the first time in my life I realize that my grown-up opinion on this particular issue differs from that of my father. I recognize that one doesn't have to choose one or the other, but can celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa. I have chosen to share in a good number of Christmas traditions; yet, I will continue to do my part to offer my family the Kwanzaa experience—from the freedom songs and African foods to the kikombe cha umoja, the unity cup, which we use to show honor to our ancestors who have paved the way for our beautiful lives. I will continue to impress upon my family the importance of engaging in a celebration of our people, by our people.

Happy Kwanzaa to you and yours.

Previous Comments

ID
154471
Comment

Great column, Queen. Happy Holidays. Tell what's his name I said hello and Happy Holidays as well. I have no doubt he's a great husband. Alpha men make great husbands. I wish somebody had told me earlier there isn't a Santa Claus so I wouldn't have slept with one eye open while waiting to shoot Santa with my slingshot for not stopping in my neighborhood for so many years. One year we (the boys of my neighborhood) were gonna rob him and take all the presents to the ghetto.

Author
Walt
Date
2009-12-23T18:49:20-06:00
ID
154478
Comment

:-) Walt you are too much. Have yourself a happy holiday season. Take care and be safe.

Author
Kamikaze
Date
2009-12-24T18:17:34-06:00
ID
154479
Comment

Love the column! My family and I have been celebrating Kwanzaa and Christmas for the past 5 years and my kids enjoy Kwanzaa more. I stopped being caught up in the spend spend spend obsession people have with christmas years ago and we don't do santa either glad to know we're not alone!! Happy Holidays!!!

Author
multiculturegirl
Date
2009-12-24T23:49:38-06:00
ID
154485
Comment

Clarification: Walt, that comment was from me, not Kamikaze. Don't want you to think he's smiling at you. LOL Kwanzaa has prooven to be more family oriented for me. I know that some families go to church on Christmas, but many don't. many just eat together and give out gifts. Well there are so many elements to celebrating Kwanzaa that involve the children. It leaves them feeling more excited and proud. Well, at least it has for me. It's really a time for reflection and building. We get so busy during the year that we take so many things for granted - family, community involvement, sharing, building each other up, etc. Kwanzaa simply offers an opportunity for us to reflect on that which we haven't given much of ourselves to over the year. While it gets us mentally ready to tackle the year coming ahead. I recommend all give the Kwanzaa experience a chance. It's wonderful. Happy Kwanzaa multiculturegirl, and everyone else.

Author
Queen601
Date
2009-12-28T08:54:44-06:00
ID
154491
Comment

Happy Kwanzaa to you as well Queen!

Author
multiculturegirl
Date
2009-12-28T14:57:44-06:00
ID
154500
Comment

Love your column, Queen. Kwanzaa sounds like such a beautiful holiday.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-28T17:52:36-06:00
ID
154509
Comment

It is Donna and thank you. :-)

Author
Queen601
Date
2009-12-29T09:37:32-06:00

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