Millennial Opinion Piece: Why Black Millennials Should Consider Starting a Kwanzaa Tradition
Conscious millennials have it hard. Many are new to the conscious wave and just “woke up”, while others are veterans at combating and blocking the social propaganda surrounding Western-religious holidays.
On Christmas, I called my auntie to say check in with her on this most joyous occasion, and when she greeted me “Merry Christmas” I said “Happy Kwanzaa”. I was actually partially joking because I had no true knowledge of the holiday. I just knew lots “conscious” people celebrated it as an alternative to Christmas. Be that as it may, I said it, meaning no harm or I’ll intention.
Y’all….she flipped out!!! Hahahaha. Here’s a recap of the hilarious, verbal lashing she gave me:
Auntie: “Happy Kwanzaa??? Oh, so what, you don’t celebrate Christmas no’mo?”
Me: “Uh…no, not exactly. But in the spirit of the season, I called to say “Happy Holiday’s” and see how your day was going?”
Auntie: “Oh no, you can get off my phone with the devil worshipping mess! So what, you praise the dead now, and all that ancestor’s mess? Oh no honey, this is about the BIIIRRRRTTH (slow emphasis on birth and Jesus) of JEEEEESUUUUUSS, ok? So don’t come playing with me this morning with that mess.
After I catch my breath from the silent laughter, because there were so many untrue things about what she said. I replied-
“Auntie pretty, I did not call to antagonize you this morning, or throw a damper on your holiday. I just wanted to see what goodies old’ St. Nick brought you this year, and what food you were cooking today.”
This diverted the conversation from the disastrous path it was headed for, but definitely piqued my interest. I’ve never celebrated Kwanzaa, and I did not know much about it, but after my auntie gave me what she thought of the idea of a Kwanzaa celebration, I wanted to find out the truth of the matter. I already knew full well what Christmas was truly about, but not Kwanzaa.
As a child of the information age, it’s incredibly easy to cure random curiosities by composing short questions to cross-reference on the web. A heavily trended google question at the break of every Christmas season is: Was Jesus born on Christmas? Easily, hundreds of articles demystifying your blasphemous question are at your fingertips, and then you’re bamboozled with the uncomfortable closeness that Christmas has to the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice, and the roman festival Saturnalia. After a few more clicks of a button, you’re left to question what it is you’ve been celebrating all these years, and why your family members and spiritual leaders continue with the tradition. Is it that they disregard the fact that the bible says Jesus was born in the spring, or do they truly not know the origin of the holiday?
What do you do after attaining this knowledge? How do you deny the confusion that’s swarming your mind, and how do you totally disregard the origin of Christmas?
I’m socially conscious, anti-religion and anti-labels, but I have no feud with Christ. By all means let’s revere him, but let’s keep it real about what it really is: materialism and capitalism. Is this the true celebration? How did this season become what it is? Why don’t we do anything more spiritually united around the globe, to pay homage to Christ? Like my brother said, Why not do one big ass prayer circle around the globe, unifying in Christianity. That would be epic, and a spiritual high. Is that what the reenactment of the nativity scene supposed to do? Couldn’t or shouldn’t it go deeper if this is all in excitement and thanksgiving for his arrival?
While your consciousness may draw you into an inner battle of whether or not to abandon your own views and participate in your family’s traditional holiday festivities, or to begin an alternative tradition of your own, It is no copout to admit to enjoying the spirit of the holiday. But you may however, enjoy commemorating one with African principles, built on moral and culture, more. No myths, no propaganda, just African philosophies and a beautiful way of life.
Kwanzaa is a celebration of African culture, and its historical heritage that is spiritually united by meditation and reflection. African traditions, and the Nguzo Saba— “the seven principles of African Heritage” is observed during the seven day black nationalist celebration, as a bridge to reconnect African Americans with their African roots.
Kwanzaa is the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, meaning "first fruits of the harvest", celebrated from December 26th- January 1st.
Seven candles in a candelabra symbolize the seven principles of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga said "is a communitarian African philosophy," consisting of what Karenga called "the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world."
These seven principles comprise *Kawaida, a Swahili word meaning "common".
Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, in this order:
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Kwanzaa celebratory symbols include a mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed: a Kinara (candle holder), Mishumaa Saba (seven candles) mazao (crops), Muhindi (corn), a Kikombe cha Umoja (unity cup) for commemorating and giving shukrani (thanks) to African Ancestors, and Zawadi (gifts). Supplemental representations include a Nguzo Saba poster, the black, red, and green bendera (flag), and African books and artworks - all to represent values and concepts reflective of African culture and contribution to community building and reinforcement. With corn being the primary symbol for both decoration and celebratory dinning.
Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with objects of art, colorful African cloth such as kente, especially the wearing of kaftans by women, and fresh fruits that represent African idealism. It is customary to include children in Kwanzaa ceremonies and to give respect and gratitude to ancestors. Libations are shared, generally with a common chalice, Kikombe cha Umoja, passed around to all celebrants.
Kwanzaa ceremonies include drumming and musical selections, and a reading of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness. You’ll reflect on the Pan-African colors, and a discussion of the African principle of the day is had over candlelight. Excerpts on African history are read and revered during the candle-lighting ritual; then artistic performances and family feasts are to follow (karamu).
ISN’T THIS BEAUTIFUL?!?!?!?!?! I AM AWE-STRICKEN OVER THE BEAUTY OF THIS CELEBRATION AND I AM SOOOOOOOOO EXCITED TO START THIS TRADITION FOR MY FAMILY!
Especially because Christmas now carries a very sour connotation for my family and I. Especially my sisters. We sisters are 5 of 7 full-blooded siblings, and we were raised by our Grandmother and Great Aunt, and they’re gone now. Christmas was everything to them, and they each went all out for it (each their own way), every year. They’re both deceased now (died within 2 years of each other) and the holidays are no longer the same. It’s just us, our mom and uncle out here, and without all of our family in California, we’re all we got. Now, we would all collectively opt out of holiday celebrations if we could, as they are now very empty.
But with the ideals of Kwanzaa in mind, it would be the perfect alternative to the gloom of that day, and would bring new meaning to this time of year; as well as honor their legacies.
During Kwanzaa, you’ll welcome one another with the African greeting: “Habari Gani”, which is Swahili for "How are you?"
Apparently, African American families have been celebrating Kwanzaa along with Christmas and New Year's for decades now. It is not uncommon for homes to have both, Christmas trees and kinaras (the traditional candle holder symbolic of African American roots) in Kwanzaa-celebrating households.
So, how will you change the meaning of the season for yourself? I am far more comfortable with what celebrating Kwanzaa means to my spirituality, than celebrating Christmas. Makes me kinda wonder….if the Most High is getting any TRUE reverence for the creation of Christ, during the traditional Christmas celebration. Or would the Creator be more pleased by the earnest, highly-moral commemoration of Kwanzaa, paying respect to the entire deity unit, while remembering your ancestors, and instilling historic, righteous rites of passage into your family?
I will pay my respects to the Kwanzaa celebration this year, and continue to immerse myself in its understanding and traditions throughout 2017, in preparation of a phenomenal 1st Kwanzaa for my household. My husband and I have stopped…..emotionally celebrating Christmas a few years ago, but we participate in our familial festivities because……because……inlot of ways we have no choice! Lol. How do you tell your family- “Hey, I’m too conscious for this pagan celebration, and I know we all only get together once a year in reverence of this holiday, but ummm…..no, I’m not coming anymore”. Hahahaha It won’t go over well, but at least now we can have a righteous appropriate reply to “Merry Christmas”.