Kwanzaa - To Celebrate or Not

Jaimie asked my why is it that I don't celebrate Kwanzaa. She figured that I being Afrocentric and all that I would naturally want to celebrate a tradition that highlight African tradition. Well, I actually didn't have a decent answer for her. I guess the main reason I don't celebrate Kwanzaa is because I've never celebrated Kwanzaa. I know the principles or at least I am familiar with them. I have nothing particular against it but I've never made it a point to make it a part of my holiday celebration.

What I am wondering is that it seems as though I should have some guiding principle to my not celebrating it. I don't because I never did doesn't seem to hold much weight in an intellectual discourse on celebrating Kwanzaa. If someone were to ask for the reason I don't celebrate Hanukkah then my answer is because I am not Jewish. However, with Kwanzaa being a celebration of black heritage - and I am black - then is there really a reason not to celebrate it.

Why Some Oppose Kwanzaa

According to those that oppose the celebration it is because it is not biblically based and removes the focus from God to self-worth. They feel that it is wrong to celebrate the triumphs of people of African decent rather than honoring God. They also note that the man that invented Kwanzaa is an ex-con, Ron Karenga, who was very anti-Christian in the beginning.

I won't begrudge them for their opposition. However, I find these arguments odd when we tell our Children that a fat white man from the North Pole knows if they are being naughty or nice and will arrive in the middle of the night being pulled by a red nose reindeer and leave presents under a tree. These same folks also believe in a religion that was introduced to them by slave masters. I could go deeper but I'll just stop here for the sake of time.

Anyway, neither of those reasons mentioned has anything to do with my reasoning for not celebrating Kwanzaa. In fact, I don't have any reason except for the fact that I just don't. There will be a lot said about Kwanzaa this week and I am of the mindset to live and let live. For those of you that celebrate it... Happy Kwanzaa. For those of you that don't - happy after Christmas sale shopping ;)

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Umoja (Unity)To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's 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 heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Discussion Starters:

1. Do you celebrate Kwanzaa? Why - Why not?
2. Should Black folk feel obligated to celebrate Kwanzaa?
3. Do you think Kwanzaa in contradictory towards Christian principles?
4. Should the background of the man that invented Kwanzaa be a determining factor in whether to celebrate Kwanzaa?


LaShawn Barber and Cobb have opposing views on the celebrating of Kwanzaa. Check them out and let me know what you think.


25 Responses to Kwanzaa - To Celebrate or Not

  1. Chance Says:
    Chance: I agree blacks need to continue making our presence felt in America with our own traditions that we come up with. Other ethnic groups have their traditions that they come up with and it is no problem the reason black catch hell for coming up with traditions. Is because blacks are a serious threat to the white cultural power structure and all ethnic groups have many members that imitate blacks sub culture and general black culture.

    By Chance
  2. Johnnie Says:
    How you gonna just make up a holdiay?!
  3. Rell Says:
    1.No, was always taught that it was about self-worth and not about god and kind of slap in the face of Christmas since it starts the day after.
    2. Not at all.
    3. In a way yes...
    4. No
  4. James Manning Says:

    In a way, aren't all holidays made up and a reflection of culture? Some have been around longer than others, but 100 years from now, will Kwanzaa really be just something someone made up?
  5. Johnnie Says:
    Yeah, I thought somebody would say something like that, James, but Kwanzaa is the only "holiday" I know of where somebody took a bunch of customs and concepts from a bunch of different places (African countries), mixed them all up together and called it something new. I see your point, of course, but it seems even more contrived than, say, Grandparents Day. Some religions (ok, all except Christianity…my bias) are made up, of course, but Kwanzaa is weird because it just fades into the ether after a few days, only to be reconstituted in 12 months. Now if it were attached to some kind of national or international black movement...
  6. James Manning Says:
    John, I guess I see Kwanzaa as more of a celebration of a culture more than I see it as a holiday.
  7. Malik Says:
    I'm pretty noncommital myself. I don't see anything negative in it, it's just one of those things that becomes what you make of it. My mom celebrates it, so my family participates in her celebration every year. I'm not too motivated by it though, because it doesn't have any particular connection to my faith or culture.
  8. Jaimie Says:
    1. Do you celebrate Kwanzaa? Why - Why not?

    No. I have only given it a fleeting thought, and then I think about all I still have to do for Christmas.
    2. Should Black folk feel obligated to celebrate Kwanzaa? No. There is no historical basis for Kwanzaa.
    3. Do you think Kwanzaa in contradictory towards Christian principles?

    Not really. But kind of. It's not anti-religious.
    4. Should the background of the man that invented Kwanzaa be a determining factor in whether to celebrate Kwanzaa?

    I read the book about African and African American history that Karenga wrote. I don't know much about the history of the man though. If he was a mass murderer in the past, it would probably make a difference whether I celebrated a holiday he created or not.

    Good discussion starters!
  9. James Manning Says:

    That is where I come down with it. Cobb has a good post as his family were some of the first to celebrate Kwanzaa.


    I think people who look for something anti-Christian in it will find it. But I think there are those who can apply the principles of Kwanzaa to their faith. It just depends on the person. thanks.
  10. Just A Thought Says:
    Why in the world is a cultural holiday/celebration being confused with religous practices?

    I personally haven't gotten into Kwanzaa yet, but I think it's wonderful that we can reaffirm positive cultural values, especially right after Christmas.

    Kwanzaa is being touted as a "Black Christmas," or some sort of religous thing. This is crazy. It's also irritating to see a wonderful attempt to build a CULTURAL holiday being so greatly perverted. Of course there is a spiritual aspect, but only one that encourages you to reaffirm your own faith.

    How in the world can people (mostly outsiders, but some Black folks too) make fun of that? There's nothing in any principle of the Kwanzaa celebration that any normal/sane person can disagree with. Although somehow, we find a way to do so.

    Wonderful discussion. I really like this blog.
  11. Just A Thought Says:
    Also... at some point, ALL holiday were "fake." They all have to start at some point.
  12. Cynthia Says:
    1. Do you celebrate Kwanzaa? Why - Why not?
    Yes, I celebrate it. Because it is affirming blackness. I really like being around different types of black people. It's fabulous.

    2. Should Black folk feel obligated to celebrate Kwanzaa?


    3. Do you think Kwanzaa is contradictory towards Christian principles?

    It's not a religious holiday. For that matter, Jesus was born in March and Christmas is a pagan holiday. From my understanding, when black people were enslaved in this country - our people would party between 12/26 - 1/1 because they knew the family would be dismantled after the 1st of January. Kwanzaa is just an affirmation of our beginnings in this country.

    4. Should the background of the man that invented Kwanzaa be a determining factor in whether to celebrate Kwanzaa?

    Karenga was a revolutionary in the 60s - at that time, anybody who showed any king of black pride were either killed or jailed.
  13. Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden Says:
    12 28 05

    Hey James: Excellent post! I celebrate it to an extent around this time of year we speak of the principles and how we can apply them. But I haven't had a formal celbration for a long time. Usually the Kwanzaa stuff got absorbed by Christmas celebrations. I think it is because my family's Christianity is steeped in the principles of Liberation theology (NOT THE SAME THING THAT COMMIES USED this is from Africans of the Diaspora) and I think liberation theology holds many of the ideals of Kwanzaa on a pedastol. What is wrong with collective responsibility and loving your neighbor? What is wrong with cultural or national identity and pride? Nothing!!! I saw Michelle Malkin's take on Kwanzaa and I disagreed because the basis of attacking it was rooted in how shady Ron Mulana Karenga was in his past. Um haven't we all heard of "respect the message irrespective of the messenger?" No man is perfect. But if an imperfect man comes up with an idea that benefits society, there is nothing wrong with that. VanGough was a lunatic yet we can still revere his work! That is my point. Excellent post James and Happy New Year:)
  14. Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden Says:
    12 28 05

    And no James, as Cynthia and others have pointed out, it doesn't contradict Christianity in the least. One thing I talked about on my blog a while back was that the early Christians were communalists - held everything in common. Now that means they shared in COLLECTIVE responsibility. Indeed, one could argue that the principles of Kwanzaa AFIRM Christian ideals!

    And interestingly enough, many of the early Christians were communalists who were also Capitalists. hmmmm...
  15. James Manning Says:
    Thanks Cynt and Mahndisa for your input on the subject. I read a post on LaShawn Barber's blog and Cobb's blog and they are very interesting. I will have to post links to them.
  16. Cynthia Says:
    I read LaShawn's take a while back. I thought what she said about Kwanzaa was consistent with her stance on many issues in the black community or about black people. Actually, I find her rather predictable. As long as I understand a person's position, that is over half the battle of getting alone.

    Cobb wrote an interesting piece. That means he is pretty old (lol).
  17. bold as love Says:
    Let's make this simple- Karenga should still be in jail for the crimes he commited against women- If you take Kwanza in context with the times during which it was created, it was anti-religion- it's anti-religion message has been softend, and virtualy elimanated over the years

    Kwanza as a holiday is not bad. I believe any thing positive can be celebrated and incorporated into ones traditions. My stance is Karenga was a psychotic man, not a revolutionary like cynthia stated, but the holiday is up to each person to celebrate or not. Personally I celebrate Christmas, and will contiue to do so.
  18. jaVnoir Says:
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  19. jaVnoir Says:
    I don't celebrate Kwanzaa but I do acknowledge the principles in my own life and family as well as my community. And living by example is the best teacher of all. I personally feel the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa are positive principles we can apply to our life--- year round.

    UNITY is one way to uplift, understand, and appreciate where we been and where we're going as a culture.

    Happy Kwanzaa!
  20. Dell Gines Says:
    LaShawn speaks for white people so I automatically discount any 'black' discussion she may have.

    Cobb had a great post on it though.

    I am like Malik on this one. I support people who want to practice Kwanzaa although I do not myself.

    Secondly, I agree with whoever said it above that it is important that blacks have their own cultural creations since whites have raped us of our African heritage and the traditions that go with it.

    Kwanzaa does follow within that manner.

    Finally I want you to consider something, what other 'event' has been created by African American's that is consistent, positive, and annual? That is also why Kwanzaa is important.
  21. James Manning Says:
    Dell, I saw your response on Cobb's site and I think you are correct. LaShawn's post is what I would expect from her.
  22. Tif Says:
    I have no problem with the principles of kwanzaa but i being a muslim celebrate no holidays. (and Eid is not a holiday). My beef with kwanzaa if I were a celebrating type of dude is a)I can't celebrate a holiday made up by someone I met; "dude over there made a holiday-- let's celebrate and b)I believe in forgiveness but c'mon Karenga killed Bunchy (Black Panther) kidnapped and beat a chick... I'd be a holiday making mofo too if I had all that to repent for
  23. TheOneandOnlyInsanely Says:
    1. Do you celebrate Kwanzaa? Why - Why not?

    I haven't actually celebrated because the set up is very costly, kinara, mat etc. However, the priciples of Kwanzaa should be celebrated daily in the black community, not just one week. I make a conscious effort to support black business as much as possible. If we don't support our own who will?

    2. Should Black folk feel obligated to celebrate Kwanzaa?

    Should we feel obligated to celebrate Christmas and follow Chrisitanity?

    3. Do you think Kwanzaa in contradictory towards Christian principles?

    Christianity contradicts itself. However, I feel us Blacks need something to feel pround of, other than being Christian.

    4. Should the background of the man that invented Kwanzaa be a determining factor in whether to celebrate Kwanzaa?
    No, what matters is the effect the principles when actually put in motion, have on the community.
  24. Rashid Muhammad Says:
    "I know of where somebody took a bunch of customs and concepts from a bunch of different places (African countries), mixed them all up together and called it something new."

    Isn't that ultimately what Christmas is?

    As for Kwanzaa, I have to agree with the usual suspects in that I have no problem with people who celebrate it, it just isn't anything that I ever really got into. Nor do I have any immediate plans to start.
  25. Diane S. Says:
    In San Antonio, which is close to my little neck of the woods, each year the entire city celebrates Fiesta. It is a celebration of hispanic culture, identity, community, and pride.

    Fiesta is attended by everyone. Hispanic, White, Black, Asian. Everybody Dance! I find that beautiful. We should all celebrate each other's culture.

    1) I don't celebrate Kwanza, but I'd love to be invited into the party.

    2) I don't think anyone should be obligated to celebrate anything. But celebrating yourself is a beautiful thing, and inviting others into that celebration is even more beautiful.

    3) I see nothing in Kwanza that contradicts Christianity. (Though in my world, we are all brothers and sisters, and we should all share each other's burdens, celebrate each other's triumphs, and love one another.)

    4) No. The idea is bigger than the man. The question is does the idea have merit? God will sort out if the man had merit.