Kwanzaa begins today and ends on January 1st. If you are not familiar with Kwanzaa it was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of African Studies at California State University, Long Beach to reaffirm and restore African culture. This year marks the 50th year of Celebrating Kwanzaa which is a cultural holiday, not a religious one and is practiced by Africans of all faiths.
The name Kwanzaa means first fruits is a celebration of strong values of African culture. Candles are lit of each night for the seven principles.
The seven Principles celebrated during Kwanzaa are:
There is significance to all the elements of the traditional celebration so I suggest you check out the resources for this article beginning with the Official Kwanzaa Website.
I include Kwanzaa as a light holiday because of the candle lighting and the strong cultural principles celebrated. Isn’t the end the year and beginning a new one a good time to reflect on the meaning of cultural values and traditions?
When you read todays topic you may have thought, REALLY? Do we need to be reminded of this during the holidays?
Well apparently we do. It seems that each year during November and December we start hearing about things like brawls at the mall with people fighting over particular items that may be in short supply. Or angry battles over nativity scenes being displayed on government property with both side being sure they are “right.” Then we have the annual brouhaha over what type of holiday greeting is proper to extend to people.
As I watch this unfolding year after year, I can’t help but wonder what all this has to do with what we say we are celebrating. If you are a Christian, does your holiday behavior reflect the life and teachings of the Master Teacher, the Price of Peace whose birth you say you are celebrating? If you celebrate a “secular” Christmas and say your celebrations are all about family, does your behavior reflect this? Do you want to pass down traditions that bring you closer as a family or that teach greed and selfishness? No matter what you celebrate during this time stop and ask if you behavior is reflecting what you say you are celebrating.
Okay so what can we do to make the holiday season a little kinder and gentler?
Remember this is a stressful time for many people. Retail workers in particular are working long hours and serving larger crowds. Tempers can be short and people can be easily provoked. Be patient with others and do not do anything to intentionally provoke another person during this time.
When someone gives you a holiday greeting accept it in the spirit in which it is intended. They are greeting you from their traditions and customs and may not even know that you believe or celebrate differently.
Focus on light, love and peace rather than who is right and who is wrong.
Buy an extra gift, pair of mittens, winter hat, etc. for charity.
Watch what you post on social media. Focus on the positive. Be the voice of love and light instead of discord and anger.
If you practice random acts of kindness, continue throughout the holiday season. If you don’t this is a good time to begin. These don’t have to be big and flashy. Something as simple as opening the door for someone with their arms full will be appreciated.
Each day think of one thing for which you are grateful. Speak it out loud. Come back to this throughout the day.
Finally take time to listen. I mean really listen to someone else. Give them your full attention. Look them in the eyes and listen. Don’t look at your cell phone or other distractions. Let the other person know you are present and you really hear them. Give the gift of listening — this could be the best gift someone receives this year.
Life is not always about who is right and who is wrong. Our life on this planet is a school. We are here to learn how to get along with each other. If we are ever going to learn this we need to start practicing. Isn’t this the perfect time to start?
Oh and one last thing… SMILE! But be careful. It’s contagious you know. 🙂
But shining our light in the world can be difficult, especially during the often frantic holiday season, can’t it? Could you use a few ideas for fun and easy ways to let your light shine during the holidays?
Well, I’ve got them.
From now until the end of December I will feature fun and easy ways to shine your light. There will be family friendly activities you can do alone or with friends, family, co-workers or another type of group. There won’t be set days for these posts, you’ll have to watch for them.
In a world with so much darkness it may be difficult to celebrate during the holiday season. But celebrate we must. Not in an all out go for broke material sort of way, but by letting the light of God living through and as us shine.
There are some exciting and interesting events available from around the world brought right to your home computer. This is a list I have been compiling for Bob and I. You are welcome to check these out. Please check the website for each event in advance to find times. Be sure to make the conversion to your time zone if needed.
Make room at your holiday table for a neighbor, friend or co-worker who may be spending the holidays alone. As someone who in the past found myself alone on too many holidays I can tell you that an invitation can be a welcome act of kindness.
Remember celebration is a state of mind. All the other stuff — elaborate gifts, food and drink, excessive spending is optional. Money is not required to express the joy of the season.
Even the rushed, busy, non stop flurry of activity is a choice. So this year, try just slowing down. Life will still go on. The holidays will still go on. Take a deep breath and remember what this season means to you. This could be your most meaningful holiday yet.
“The first duty of love is to listen.” — Paul Tillich
Story Corp. began the National Day of LIstening on the day after Thanksgiving in 2008 as a non-commercial alternative to Black Friday Shopping. We all need a reminder that life is not about how many things we collect, but about the relationships we build. On this day after Thanksgiving take an hour to record an interview with a loved one. This is your opportunity to let the people close to you know their stories won’t be forgotten. You might be surprised by what you learn. For more information on the National Day of Listening including a Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide visit: http://www.nationaldayoflistening.org/