It’s Kwanzaa – Part II

A group a teenagers shared the Severn Principles of Kwanzaa. I was impressed with the seven-day process and the ritual involved. There are seven candles; 3 red, 1 black and 3 green. In the Kinara, (the candle holder), is placed a candle for each of the seven days. The red symbolizes the blood that our African ancestors had shed to provide African-Americans better lives. Black symbolizes African people all over the world and our unification in struggle and hope. Green stands for African land and the nourishment and growth it provides for us as well as our riches and outstanding accomplishments.

I loved that we honored our elders, children and the contributions made throughout the year. The children of the community walked in a procession to set-up the Kwanzaa altar. I especially loved the non-commercial aspects of Kwanzaa. You have to give a hand-made gift or a gift of knowledge. No store bought gifts allowed. And the celebration ends with a huge community pot luck.

The evening was a night to remember. I felt so connected to my community and culture. I had the feeling of arriving home. What I learned that night would change the way I would spent my Christmas season for the rest of my life. I immediately incorporated the celebratory traditions of Kwanzaa into my life.

There are seven principles also known as the Nguzo Saba. The principles are as follows:

Umoja -unity,

Kujighagalia-self-determination,

Ujima-collective work and responsibility,

Ujamaa – cooperative economics,

Nia- purpose,

Kuumba- creativity, Imani- faith.

There are eight symbols associated with Kwanzaa and are used to build an altar. The symbols are:

A Kinara

Seven candles (1 black, 3 red, 3 green) is lite nightly for each of the principles.

Unity Cup Straw mat

Mazao (Fruits of the harvest)

Vibunzi (ears of corn)

Zwadi (Handmade gifts)

Bendera (Flag Red, Black & Green)

For me, Kwanzaa was more than the gifts and the feasts; it was a rites of passage. And being exposed to many new ideas and concepts. The Kwanzaa Celebration provided a sense of purpose, togetherness, meaning and pride that I had never experienced before. The best take away is, I don’t have to wait once a year for the principles of Kwanzaa. I can live by these principles throughout the year.

It’s Kwanzaa – Part I

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Happy Kwanzaa to everyone on the planet!

The air is a buzz around my house. We are getting ready for one of my favorite holidays of the year, Kwanzaa. I have been celebrating Kwanzaa for over 25 years. It seems like yesterday when I began to embrace the principles of Kwanzaa. When I starting celebrating Kwanzaa, my family members thought I had lost my mind. My folks had never heard of Kwanzaa They were very uncomfortable with the concepts involved in celebrating Kwanzaa. My former sister-in-law, asked me if she had to give up celebrating Christmas. And my sister informed me that she was not giving up attending church Christmas Day. My entire tribe was out of sorts regarding Kwanzaa. I shared with them that Kwanzaa was not a new holiday. Maybe it was new to them but not new to world. Kwanzaa originated in 1966 and was introduced by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 – January 1.

I heard about Kwanzaa through a friend. She invited me to attend a celebration. The first thing she said was Kwanzaa was a cultural celebration and not a religious holiday. It does not interfere with Christmas and you do not need to be of any particular religion to celebrate. You also don’t have to celebrate it instead of Christmas. She continued explaining and said that any race can participant in the festivities. I read that on average around 10 million people in the country celebrate Kwanzaa every year.

I didn’t know what to expect at the celebration. I was actually kinda of nervous. The ceremony began with African drumming and dancing. Something inside me began to connect with the drums. It was as if my Soul was dancing to the beat. After the drumming stopped a young man opened the celebration with a request. He requested the permission of what he called the village elders to begin the celebration. A ninety year old woman and a ninety-three year old man gave their permission. The older gentleman was beaming with pride and the woman said she was honored that the community ask for her permission. It was a very special moment for her.

We paid homage to our Ancestors and acknowledged their journey and contribution through use of Libation. It was amazing to call out my mom’s name and invite her energy and presence to be with the community.

Part II soon to follow.

The Christmas Blues

imageI am beginning to notice a grumbling amongst my colleagues these days. Folks all around me seem to be very stressed about the holidays. They are consumed with participating in the best retails sales online and in the store, buying the right gifts, decorations for the house, apprehension around big family gatherings. I thought the Christmas season represents happiness and togetherness. For some of us, it can also be a difficult time. I heard a friend say to me today that she has the Christmas blues. I laughed at her and said you have to be kidding, right? She said no, every year around this time she gets really depressed and sad. She said it is a mixture of feelings that may include sadness, depression, loneliness, a loss of self-worth, and anger.

I did a little research and found out that there is such an animal as the Christmas Blues. There are many reasons a person may get the blues. Here are several to ponder: financial difficulties, relationship problems, big move to an unfamiliar place, new job, sick loved one or death in the family. The blues could be brought on by a multitude of life challenges. The blues can also be brought on by everyday stresses. You may feel as though you are the only person in the world going through this, but you are not alone. Many people experience Christmas Blues every year.

Here are a few suggestions that may help you with Christmas Blues:

  • Talk to someone – Connect with a friend, family member, therapist or a spiritual adviser. You need an outlet to express what you are feeling inside. By talking to someone you take the power out of the very thing you are hiding from the world.
  • Volunteer in the community – You could look for ways to share your time and talent with those less fortunate than yourself. There are plenty of places in the community that could use your assistance. Helping others takes you away from your troubles. The experience may assist you in your healing process. Something happens to you when you bring joy to the life of others. In a Universal kind of way, you reap some of the joy as well.
  • Take a Break – This could be taking time off work to hang out with family or friends, spending time alone, going on a short retreat “Day-cation.” Where can you go to have fun or to simply just be?
  • Be honest – The holiday season can be very expensive. Be honest with yourself about your ability to make purchases. You may not be able to give your loved ones every present on their list. Give gifts from your heart that has the potential to be amazingly meaningful.

By reframing how you think about the holidays, you can get through the season without agonizing. We agonize when we are not meeting our own or someone else’s expectations. You have to change your view of the holidays. Let go of expectations that are no longer serving you. Let go of having to have the biggest and the best presents. Let go of trying to make the house and the dinner perfect. Let go of trying to make everyone happy. Start by making yourself happy. Do you! No matter how selfish it sounds, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. If you are feeling resentment this holiday season, it is time for a change. Don’t forget to focus on all the things that make your heart sing and dance. You will be better off for it and so will those around you. Happy Holidays!