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How I Changed My Holiday Traditions to Match My Values

December 27, 2017 in Blogs

By Zenobia Jeffries, YES! Magazine

Five ways to celebrate without feeling financially and emotionally overwhelmed.

Throughout my childhood, my paternal grandmother always made sure the family had a “good” Christmas. For her, that meant everyone received a gift—especially the children. We would meet at a relative’s house each year on Christmas Eve and at midnight exchange gifts. Money was often tight, and sometimes the holidays brought more of a burden when having to choose between buying decorations and gifts and paying bills.

For my own daughter’s and son’s first Christmases, I wanted them to have a good Christmas, too. I went overboard in trying to make this happen by buying unnecessary things. After that, I stopped buying gifts, and although I would still visit family for that holiday, I didn’t exchange gifts.

But these days, I’m starting my own traditions, which include observing the African American cultural holiday Kwanzaa. That doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate Christmas; it’s just given me a new approach to doing so.

In 1966, Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa (derived from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits”), a weeklong celebration to introduce and reinforce seven values, called Nguzo Saba, of African culture. Karenga is a professor and chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He said he created Kwanzaa specifically for African Americans, who did not have a day that celebrated their unique history and experience in the United States. While the early years of the holiday was in resistance to racism and White supremacy and rejected Christianity—therefore Christmas outright—the holiday has evolved to embrace all people of African descent no matter their religion.

Not everyone stresses about what the holidays demand of us, but the good news is, no one has to. Here are five ways the Nguzo Saba can inspire you to participate in the holidays without feeling financially and emotionally overwhelmed. Reclaim the holidays as your own. I did.

1. Don’t buy your gifts—make them

You don’t have to give in to the holiday shopping tradition of overspending. Make meaningful gifts. Be creative, be intentional.

The principle of Kuumba (creativity) “teaches us to do always as much as we can, in …read more


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