I am ending this year with pride and culture. I have been hesitant to start the practice of Kwanzaa in my home for some time, not because I did not believe in the value of its practice, but because of…. fear. It is the continuous fear of breaking away from overculture, even though I am Pagan, and a Black woman. I will never fit into the norm of overculture, and it is not something I am trying to do anyway. It is often an unconscious fear that pushes us away from something that is new and potentially beneficial…. yet different.
Kwanzaa is different, even though it should not be. I have dibbled and dabbled in studying up on it, but this year is different for me. 2013 has been one of intensive, intentional cultural reflection and learning. I have much more to learn, and yet am happy about what I am accomplishing on this journey. I have come to see that this year, my openness to embracing my ancestral culture and knowledge has made some people very uncomfortable. And yet, this same openness to embracing my ancestral culture and knowledge has led me to Kwanzaa.
So while I am not an expert on this celebratory holiday, I still feel compelled to share my journey as a doorway to personal reflection.
Part of living as a fully integrated spiritual being means that I don’t have to separate my roots from my worship. I can embrace my modern Paganism, often representative of Eurocentric gods and images, while still spiritually celebrating being a Black woman. There are many of us on this path that have to find that balance. After 11 years in the Craft, I am still perfecting mine.
This African and Pan-African holiday was created by a professor of Black studies at California State University Long Beach, Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, in 1966. Part of the motivation of this celebration was to help connect us back to a culture, and the roots of a culture, that is strong in a history we were separated from. The seven days of Kwanzaa represent the seven principles of the celebration. According to this website illustrating information on Kwanzaa, the 7 principles include: (1) Umoja or Unity; (2) Kujichagulia or Self-Determination; (3) Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility; (4) Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics; (5) Nia or Purpose; (6) Kuumba or Creativity; and (7) Imani or Faith.
There is a customary meal on the 31st of December where families celebrate togetherness, and the 1st day of January is a day of reflection. It is said that on the day of meditation you are to reflect on three questions (Kawaida): “Who am I?”, “Am I really who I say I am”, “Am I all I ought to be?”. It is also said that this is a good time to honor the ancestors as well.
The Kinara, the candle holder for Kwanzaa, holds 7 candles that represents the colors of Africa. “Green is for the land, Gold is for our riches, Red is for the blood that was spilled, and black is for our people”, this is what I learned in as a child. Some of the informational websites talk about the correlations between Orisha and the colors as well.
The Making of a Kinara:
So I discovered that it is not easy finding a Kinara in all areas. I live in a relatively affluent community, and it was harder to find a Kinara than it is to find black hair care products. So after the frustration of looking, I decided to make one myself. I found a design on Michael’s craft store website that was pretty easy to make, and I went to the Michael’s down the street. Online I found Kinara’s priced from about $40.00 – 70.00, and the supplies to make this came to about $23.00. It would have been less if I had paint brushes and acrylic paint already, but I didn’t, so the cost includes those things.
I got seven blocks, painted them the colors of red, gold and green. I got 7 mini wooden pots, (they were out of the wooden candle holders), and painted those black. And then I got busy with the hot glue gun.
And BAM!!! I had a pretty cool little Kinara.
Oh, and then I had to find a black candle in December; small complication indeed.
I decided to put my Kinara on my ancestor mantle. I found that to be the most fitting in my home, a direct connection with my ancestors of blood and bone. Sitting right in front of my mother’s ashes, I lit the candles on the Kinara. Since I had to make one, I am a little behind on the candle lighting part.
In thinking about the seven principles that encompass this holiday, I have chosen to sit in meditation every night to really reflect on how the concepts empower who I am today, and who I want to be. My husband Jon and I talked about this today, how to do this with a family, and make it inclusive of their various developmental learning stages. We decided that we would do our meal on the 31st, and we would do the same on the first, and ask these types of questions (Kawaida) of ourselves to discuss. This way we can ask them in more developmentally appropriate ways, and share with one another how we are honoring the spirit of Kwanzaa. I hope this will embed the importance of these values in the children, so they will grow up to have a sense of importance about their culture and the roots of their ancestors.
Our most important form of magic comes from an ability to understand our personal power. Our strongest magic, our most authentic magic, is part ancestral, visionary, intentional, relational, and all things love…. all things you. So the more we take the time to know ourselves, the closer we are to manifesting things that are in line with our deepest wants and needs, and closer to our life plan.
It is for those reasons alone that my spiritual and culturally ethnic worlds have to share same space within my home. May your magic be as powerful as your holiday memories, your most loving embrace, your most vivid dreams, and the most mind-blowing touch.
I plan to ride that magic into 2014. Shall we?
Lyrics from Sweet Honey on the Water’s Seven Principles song. Enjoy!
UMOJA-Unity that brings us together.
KUJICHAGULIA- We will determine who we are.
UJIMA- Working and building our union.
UJAMAA- We’ll spend our money wisely.
NIA- We know the purpose of our lives.
KUUMBA- All that we touch is more beautiful.
IMANI- We believe that we can, We know that we can, We will any way that we can.