Christmas. This "C" word is often associated with another "C" word: Consumerism. While I, just like the next person, love to give gifts around the holiday season, I feel that at this certain time of year that should be reserved for compassion and gratitude, everyone gets way to swept up in the logistics of the holidays. Especially at this time in history with the looming recession everyone is so scared to "lose Christmas" because they can't afford the new iPod Touch and are willing to go to all ends to get deals. If the Wal-Mart employee who got trampled to death on Black Friday is not a wake up call to us mass consumers in North America than I don't know what is. I think it's safe to say that we have lost touch with the point of Christmas; a point best summarized by my good friend Aaron.
After watching the Muppet's "A Christmas Carol" with 10 amazing friends of mine, the movie shut off and we sat in the dark discussing what Christmas means to us. Aaron, our own Linus, gave an awesome speech about how the holidays should be a time of being with people you love and of unity and celebration. (I wish I could remember his exact words!) All of us 18 year olds were like, 'damn, Aaron's right.' I think even Sol agreed and he's Jewish! :D
What I've decided this year after facing many spiritual and religious crossroads recently is that it doesn't matter what you do or do not celebrate or believe in, it's about how you tune into that holiday magic that brightens up lives around the world at this meak time of year. Hence, I've decided my holiday greeting of choice is "Joyous Kwanzaa."
I took the liberty to decorate my dorm door whiteboard with a bright "JOYOUS KWANZAA" message that has given me the opportunity to inform people about the African holiday: Kwanzaa. Most people don't have the slightest idea to what it is (aside from those who were in my grade 7 class that performed "Kwanzaa Celebration" at the RLC Christmas Assembly!) This holiday was established in 1966 and aims to"...give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society." How wicked eh!?
What makes it even cooler is that it's celebrated from December26 to January 1st! Yes folks, that means you can celebrate Christmas for two days and then another seven celebrating Kwanzaa. What else appeals to me about this holiday (aside from the fact I've been in love with Africa, especially since WS 206: Globalization and Resistance) are the things that are celebrated during Kwanzaa. The main principles are: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. :D! All great things to celebrate during this time of year. I think that instead of parents explaining to their kids that unfortunately they couldn't afford a wii, instead they should try teaching some of the principles that Kwanzaa celebrates. Do you think kids in Africa don't enjoy their holiday season because they aren't getting Rock Band? I think not. The above principles resenate far deeper and for far longer than material gifts.
As good 'ol Wikipedia reads: Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday. And it is not an alternative to people's religion or faith but a common ground of African culture...Kwanzaa is not a reaction or substitute for anything. In fact, it offers a clear and self-conscious option, opportunity and chance to make a proactive choice, a self-affirming and positive choice as distinct from a reactive one." I think that Africa has it right and can teach the rest of the world a few things! Instead of looking to teach African countries I think that if we really look closely the rest of us can learn something from them. I recently read Globe and Mail African correspondant, Stephanie's reflection on Africa and this was reaffirmed once again. (check out the article, it's amazing http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081211.wnolenafrica1212/BNStory/International/home)
Anyway, I can't wait to get home to be with my family and the rest of my friends and take part in the celebration. Although this may be a stressful time of year, I could not have a better reward at the end of this exam time.
I will close with a quote from Kwanzaa founder Karenga:
Karenga's most recent interpretation emphasizes that while every people has its own holiday traditions, all people can share in the celebration of our common humanity: "Any particular message that is good for a particular people, if it is human in its content and ethical in its grounding, speaks not just to that people, it speaks to the world."
p.s. to learn more about the Kwanzaa principles, Wikipedia Kwanzaa! ;)