Posts Tagged ‘kwanzaa’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  78                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 79

Today’s Mileage: 5                                              Total Trip Mileage: 661

Holidays and Holy Days on December 27:

Zarathosht Diso Zoroastrian anniversary of the death of Prophet Zarathustra.

Ashura – An Islamic one day fast. The Shia observance is based on the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s Grandson, Husayn ibn Ali,  martyred on this date in 683/684 AD at the battle of Karbala.  Sunni observance is in recognition of Moses fasting in gratitude to Allah/God for liberation from oppression.


It feels good to ride the bike this morning!  The sun is rising on a crisp and clear morning and I have begun to “work off” all the joyful celebration which went straight to my midsection.  I would like to apologize to my Zoroastrian friends, as their holiday is actually celebrated on December 26, but was included today because of an oversight yesterday.

Kwanzaa celebrant lighting the kinara candles.

Today I want to speak about the history and significance of Kwanzaa.  I suspect that it is a greatly misunderstood movement and celebration.  Its creation and purpose raise some intriguing questions about the importance of not always relying solely on “old traditions” but the role and significance that new traditions can play in community building and healing “ a people’s wounds.”  I will have more to say about the issue of creating new traditions in a future posting.

Dr. Karenga

Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966. After the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Dr. Karenga searched for ways to bring African-Americans together as a community. He founded US, a cultural organization, and started to research African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Dr. Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa.

The celebration spans seven days with each day focusing on an important principle or virtue that helps to strengthen the community.  The festivities include gift giving and close with a feast.  Each day one candle is ignited on the kinara; the black, red and green candles represent the African colors.

A stylized Kinara!

A Kwanzaa celebrant blogged about her experience this way: “We talked about the 7 days that we celebrate for Kwanzaa and what the names of the days mean. The order you wouldlight the candles in are the black one is the first day. It is called Ujamaa which means Cooperative Economics. The second day is the farthest candle on the left called Umoja which means Unity. The next one on the 3rd day is on the farthest one to the right which is called Imani, which means Faith. The next one is the one right next to Umoja which is called Kujichagulia which means Self-determination. Then next is Kuumba the green candle right next to Imani, which stands for Creativity. The next one is the red one right next to Ujamaa it is called Ujima which means Collective Work and Responsibility. The last but not least is the green candle next to Ujamaa and it is Nia which means Purpose.”

Kwanzaa stamp!

At the Dallas Kwanzaa celebration the speaker, Iyamode Sobande, explained the holiday’s history: “Kwanzaa is patterned after the agricultural celebrations at the end of harvest time,” she said. “So we use this as an end-of-the-year gathering time.” After her speech everyone chanted the phrase “Harambee,” which means “Let’s pull together,” before repeating each of the seven Kwanzaa principles. Safisha Hill, another speaker at the Dallas gathering noted that Kwanzaa is often misunderstood: “Most people think that Kwanzaa is black Christmas. It’s not a religious holiday. It is important we celebrate Kwanzaa, as it teaches principles that bring the family and the community together.”

In order to find common ground between the world’s cultures and religions we need to understand and embrace the positive and joyful meaning of celebrations like Kwanzaa!  You don’t have to be African to repeat the Swahili phrase, Habari Gani, which is used by many who celebrate Kwanzaa. Its literal interpretation is “What’s the news?”

Sharing the “news” of joys and sorrows is an important step in seeing the “humanity” of all people and building bridges between individuals, faiths, cultural communities and nations.

For more information on Kwanzaa please visit its official site at: www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org. Thanks to the website www.interfaithcalandar.org for information on the holidays and holy days.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  77                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 78

Today’s Mileage: 8                                               Total Trip Mileage: 656

Holidays and Holy Days on December 26:

Boxing Day – a tradition, primarily within the British Commonwealth, of giving seasonal gifts to less fortunate individuals and money and gifts to charitable institutions.

Kwanzaa – a weeklong celebration held primarily in the United States honoring universal African heritage and culture. It is observed from December 26 to January 1st.


I hope this note finds family and friends up and moving around and that you have overcome any self- induced sugar comas!  As I ride the bike today I’d like to wish everyone a happy Boxing Day and first day of Kwanzaa.  I will speak more to the significance of Kwanzaa in the upcoming week.

Cute! But not Boxing Day.

I realize that many people from the United States are unfamiliar with the concept of Boxing Day. Susan informs me that it is a significant holiday in Canada, Great Britain and much of the Commonwealth.  In fact later today we will be traveling to visit some of her Canadian relatives to exchange gifts and partake in yet another holiday meal!

Definately Not Boxing Day!

My understanding is that the exact origins of the celebration are unknown, but appears to have begun in Europe during the middle ages. It was a time when boxes of gifts were given to the household staff, servants and craftsman who provided services to the well-to-do society members.  From there it branched out to become a general day of giving to the “less fortunate” of society. When I first heard of it some years ago, I was under the misperception that it functioned as an opportunity to “re-gift” items you received but did not desire to retain!

Boxing Day Tradition: After the giving - a fox hunt!

What does this have to do with Muslims and Jews you might ask?

 In yesterdays local paper was a headline from Detroit entitled: Muslims join Jews for Christmas Mitzvah.   The opening paragraph stated:

 “Many Jews consider Christmas Day an opportunity to serve their community while Christian neighbors celebrate their holiday.  This year, what’s also known as Mitzvah Day in the southeast Michigan is getting an added boost from Muslims.”

 The article goes on to talk about the combined efforts by the two religious communities to help cover community social service activities, such as feeding the hungry and delivering toys children in need.  The article notes not only are Muslims and Jews available to serve on Christmas Day but that both groups share a commitment to community service. 

 I think I speak for people of all faiths, or no faith, when I send my sincere thank you and appreciation to these faith communities for their efforts to bridge what often seems to be an insurmountable divide.

Building bridges around the light of peace and giving.

It has long been my contention that bridges between cultures and religions are possible! The most fertile ground to plant the seeds of cooperation and acceptance are in the common human qualities of compassion and a commitment to a greater good.

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