Sunday, December 23, 2007

Celebrating Kwanzaa With Activities and Gifts!

Lainad introduced the concepts of Kwanzaa to us last month.  Don't look now, but Kwanzaa begins Wednesday.  While gifts were not initially part of the Kwanzaa celebration, some people do give zawadi, or gifts, on the final day of Kwanzaa. Others treat Kwanzaa more like Hannukah, giving a small meaningful gift each day of the celebration; such gifts should represent the principle of the day. All my research has emphasized Kwanzaa gifts should be meaningful, symbolic, personalized, ideally hand-made, and promote growth in the recipient.  So clearly, this list is going to be very different than one chock-full of bling and toys.  My list is much more of a "suggestion" list of activities and ideas to inspire than a true "buy this gift" list.

The first principle of Kwanzaa is Umoja or Unity.  Celebrations should emphasize the importance of togetherness for the family and community.  Grab a cookbook, such as Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons which explores dishes and cooking techniques that have travelled from Africa around the world. Choose one of the recipes, gather up all the ingredients, call the family into the kitchen and cook a meal together!  Even better: start a family cookbook of everybody's favorite recipes, and all learn how to prepate them! If you've got a small-ish family, invite friends over!  The gift is the time spent in a common activity.  This is a great present for anyone, any time of year!

The second principle: Kujichagulia 
or Common Interests suggest that people define common interests and make decisions that best serve the entire community.  Here is a gutsy proposal:  Grab your personal financial planning software, such as Quicken, and as a family plan your budget for next year. Do the kids hope for a large purchase (like Wii) or a big vacation? Let them see what it will take to achieve it and allow them to participate in making some of the decisions. How much input each family member gets will, ofcourse, be determined by their age and maturity, but setting goals for the year as a unit is exactly what today should be about.

The third principle:Ujima or  Collective Work and Responsibility. Think about obligations to the past, present and future. Seek out a local museum and visit as a family; consider buying a family membership to support the museum and to allow your family to return throughout the year. Join or start a Food Co-op.

Ujamaa: Cooperative economics. Finally a reason to shop!  Are you tempted to stop at your neighborhood big box store or mall to pick up after-Christmas specials? Instead, vow today to patronize your neighborhood, locally-owned businesses first, especially those businesses that give back to the your community.  Shopping online?  Search out those online businesses that have been built by blacks, especially women. For example, have you ordered body-care products made by  Carol's Daughter?  She started making her products in her kitchen; now you can find them in many high-end department stores and at Sephora online.

Nia is the principle of setting personal goals that help the community.  Gift all your friends with ComplaintFreeWorld bracelets and take the pledge as a group! 

Kuumba: Creativity. Finally an easy one for me!  All New Crafts for Kwanzaa will encourage everybody to get crafty and creative! Or Sharing is selling great hand-dyed sock yarn in holiday colors. You can learn how to knit!  Ok, in reality one should think about what to do to leave the community better and more beautiful than we inherited it. Think about volunteering for a community garden, Christmas in April, or Habitat for Humanity

Imani: Faith. Religious faith is far too personal an activity for me to provide you with suggestions, but faith is also about a faith in ourselves: as individuals, as geographic communities; as larger communities defined race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and yes religious beliefs.  Faith is about the "righteousness of the struggle" that  brought a community together.  Faith is about getting up every day and putting one foot in front of the other and surviving.  Examine your FAITH then head to the library and find some books that inform about that community. Consider a road trip to a museum or memorial.  Talk to local residents who have stories to tell of near-past history and record their thoughts.  Learn more about initiatives such We the People or The People Project

If, instead of these somewhat heady activities, you're think you might just giving someone a nice gift at the end of the week, I do have a couple suggestions:

Consider giving something like CoverMeCool's Bogolan Indigo 6 Coat.  Made of traditional mudcloth and Indigo-dyed fabrics

The beautiful hand-carved harvest bowl is a perfect for the Kwanzaa table yet would be useful year-round.

If you purchase someone a nice book, these Kwanzaa bookmarks will keep them from losing thier place!

Finally, a giant THANK YOU to Maria Niles and Denise for their guidance with this post.  This post actually represents MOST of the principles of Kwanzaa by its mere existance.

Debra Roby will be gifting many of her friends and acquaintances with those ComplaintFreeWorld bracelets, and she'll likely blog their reactions as part of her creative life at A Stitch in Time and her mundane life at Deb's Daily Distractions .