Today is Christmas - and we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ - sent to save us from our own stupidity and iniquities, and to teach us to love one another and don't do to others what we would not want to be done to us, among other principles. Principles which, if really applied in the spirit in which they were given, would have made a vast difference in today's world. However, human beings being who and what they are - imperfect, flawed and always evolving (or devolving) - were constantly defiling the rules for the most part (with the possible exception of Sundays). Christmas is the time where most of us take time out to gather as families and commemorate the blessing and the Gift that keeps on giving - God's love for us.
There are those who feel that the celebration of Christ's birth has become overly commercialized and an excuse for spending exorbitant amounts of money in the guise of celebrating the miracle that occurred more than 2000 years ago. Some claim it has become paganized by the introduction of a mythological character, "Santa Claus," Christmas Trees, lights, decorations, music, etc. However, it is to be expected when you filter it through a eurocentric translation - far removed from the original African birth. However, there was no edict from God that we had to be rigid in our celebration. He gave us freedom of choice, free will, creativity and imagination for a reason.
I freely admit that the Christmas season is one of my personal favorite times of the year - It's one of the most beautiful times of the year. People are more open, generous, their creativity and energy are heightened, and they focus more on love, blessings, miracles, joy, faith and reverence. Christmas opens the heart.
Kwanzaa, which was founded in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, as an alternative to Christmas. He enunciated the Nguzo Saba ( Seven Principles) which more focused on cultural and character development based on African principles - that are in many ways more in keeping with many of the principles Christ stood for. And the fact that have practical application in today's world make them even more significant.
I celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa, and do not find them in conflict with each other. So for me, it's not either or, it's both and. In New York, Imhotep Gary Byrd fosters the practice of the Nguzo Saba 365 days of the year, and starts most of his radio broadcasts off quoting which day represents which principle he's focusing on, and some ways in which his listeners can incorporate it into their day. It's not only good for us as adults, but a great way to inculcate the meaning and practice for our children. So that by the time Kwanzaa rolls around, our children will have developed an understanding of the principles and begun to incorporate it into their lives.
When my children were young, they were taught to make their own gifts to exchange among themselves - each gift represented a different principle of Kwanzaa. But I won't pretend that it was an easy transition for them to go from celebrating Christmas to Kwanzaa. In fact, the first year we tried to ditch Christmas and just celebrate Kwanzaa, my husband and I found out the hard way that you can't take Christmas away from a child cold turkey (LOL). My daughter, Kira, who at the time was 6, was totally in agreement with the idea of Kwanzaa and getting a different gift each day. We carefully explained to her that Kwanzaa began on December 26 - the day after Christmas, and ended New Years Day. She helped us put together the mkeka, kinara and other symbols in preparation for the celebration.
Since we were preparing for Kwanzaa, we did not purchase a Christmas Tree, even though we did sing some of the sacred Christmas songs and talked about the real meaning of Christmas. On Christmas eve, we put Kira to bed, and proceeded to watch TV, secure in the knowledge that we were fully invested in our Blackness and that we were likewise raising a child in the spirit of Kwanzaa and Black consciousness. I was headed to the kitchen past her bedroom and heard her crying quietly into her pillow. When I went in to find out what was wrong, my little daughter burst into tears and started crying hysterically, "It's not the same! It's not the same!" There was no tree, no lights, no decorations. Lou saw how upset she was and decided to go out and get a tree. He must have gone to every Christmas Tree lot in Manhattan and they were completely sold out. Not wanting to see her cry, he actually took left over limbs from trimmed trees and built her a tree, complete with lights and decorations, which helped to lift her spirits. From that point on, we decided that we would celebrate both traditions. And I've been doing it ever since. While that may or may not work for everyone, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.
For those who are not familiar with Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba, or the philosophy behind it, I've included a message from Maulana Ron Karenga, who will be in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, December 30 and West Philadelphia High School (3901 Chestnut St., 19139) at 6:00 PM.
But also the Museum of Natural History in New York, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia will be celebrating Kwanzaa from December 26 through December 30; and Kenny Gamble will be presenting a Kwanzaa celebration at the Audenreid High School on December 30, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM featuring Sonia Sanchez and the Universal Dancers and Dummers. For more detail, check out the December23 edition of ECLECTICALLY BLACK NEWS - EVENT ALERT, KWANZAA
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So Again, Merry Christmas and Kwanzaa Kizuri!!
NOW THAT YOU KNOW,
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
Stay Blessed &