As Kwanzaa become more popular, a debate arose as to whether or not people can truly embrace both Kwanzaa and Christmas. While the correct answer lies within the heart and mind of the individual, it's worth taking a look at the arguments surrounding the controversy.
No, You Can't
Some Christians have argued that Kwanzaa, which is a holiday that gives African-Americans the opportunity to celebrate their culture and to praise positive values within the community, negatively interferes with Christmas. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, and many have pointed out that the ideals that Kwanzaa espouses are admirable. However, it is not a religious holiday.
Those generally opposed to Kwanzaa are often devout Christians who feel that the celebration is too pagan and focuses on non-religious aspects, therefore detracting from Christmas and a Christ-centered worship. They are concerned that the holiday was intended to replace Christmas, and the idea of another holiday so close to the Christian's holiest day is enough for them to decide not to celebrate Kwanzaa.
Yes, You Can
Those people who celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa generally feel that the cultural celebration of Kwanzaa complements the holiday season. Because it is less commercialized than Christmas and the focus is on family and self-worth, Kwanzaa acts as a peaceful time for participants to reflect and refocus their goals. Many feel that, regardless of Kwanzaa's origins, the benefits of the African-American cultural holiday can be incorporated easily into households that also celebrate Christmas.
In answer to the objections of Kwanzaa's more pagan-seeming symbols and rituals, participants point out many pagan symbols that are now a cherished part of Christmas (Christmas trees, mistletoe and even a Yule log). There are also beloved parts of the Christmas tradition that are twentieth-century creations (for example, Rudolph was created in 1939 by an advertising executive).
Folks are always asking me about Kwanzaa, so here are a few thoughts for each day of this winter holiday.
For the seven nights from December 26th to the 31st, the Kwanzaa celebration commemorates African roots, honors the ancestors and looks to the future in the spirit of unity, dignity and hope.