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26 December 2010

Happy Kwanzaa

I never really understood Kwanzaa.  What is Kwanzaa?

One year for Books for Babes, we were requested to have some Kwanzaa books for sale to give to young black children who might be celebrating Kwanzaa.  I think we simply gave them to the social service agency since a) we couldn't figure out who was a young black child who celebrated Kwanzaa and b) our customers and these children's benefactors believed (probably rightfully so) that any young black child who celebrates Kwanzaa would have a live, loving person (like parent, pastor, childcare provider) who can explain it better and who would more appreciate a book he could read throughout the year, like those featuring Harry Potter or dinosaurs or flower fairies or pigs.

So, it was quite interesting to hear Keith Mayes about Kwanzaa (a seven-day observation that starts on Boxing Day -- 26 December) on NPR.  Those seven principles, like faith, unity, purpose, creativity, cooperative economics,..., are quite ideal and uplifting, and it's interesting that commentator Keith Mayes has mixed feelings about it becoming multicultural.  Are the black-power roots of Kwanzaa getting diluted by multiculturalism and widespread recognition, just like the Christian tradition of Christmas became buried and lost by commercialization, secularization and (horrors) paganization?

I only put that last part, because of how people think.  The early Christian calendar was somewhat shifted so that Christmas kinda like, but not really, coincided with the Winter Solstice so those pagans would "get it," and Christians had the day off to celebrate His birthday.  Blasphemous talk, maybe, but that's the prevailing theory since, gee, I don't know, 900 C.E.  I think Kwanzaa is still too serious to have strayed from its roots.  It's only 44 years old and some African-Americans haven't had the chance to feel the need to be less exclusive about it.  Don't worry, Professor Mayes, it's still considered a black celebration, although Americans (maybe including me) puzzle over whether it's racist to be saying, "Happy Kwanzaa" to every black person including Nigerians, South Africans and those from San Antonio, Texas, or continuing to figure out for whom Kwanzaa is important or even whether a non-African-American should even be acknowledging that Kwanzaa is a black celebration (for instance, unless we specifically know someone is Jewish or Muslim, didn't we automatically say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" during the days leading up to and including Christmas?

The point that Mayes and many should think about and that the SERIOUS CHRISTIANS should REALLY THINK ABOUT is that the further the concept of a celebration spreads, whether it be for Kwanzaa or Christmas, the stronger it becomes.  It is not dilution or loss.  It is adnascentia -- the laying down of many, many roots, so many that it becomes part of the American culture.  That is how we can all achieve equality, by striving towards unity and faith and peace on earth and goodwill towards men.

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