I Do Not Celebrate Kwanzaa! (And Neither Does Anyone Else)

Kwanzaa Candles “Happy Kwanzaa,” a white cashier greeted me as I was returning unwanted Christmas gifts last year.

I couldn’t help it. I scowled at her. “Um…I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa.” The cashier muttered an embarrassed apology and quickly finished my transaction. I felt bad for ruining her multicultural moment, her chance to display her tolerance and understanding of my culture. But the thing is, Kwanzaa is most certainly not a part of my culture. I do not celebrate Kwanzaa, and neither does anyone else.

Well okay, fine, I’m sure that somewhere in this country, someone actually celebrates Kwanzaa. Though there are no official statistics to indicate how many people actually embrace the holiday, I am reasonably certain that at least a few families out there are lighting the candles of their kinaras, dressing in African clothing, and eating whichever foods symbolize the holiday for them. But here’s the deal – although I am Black, and have numerous Black relatives, I do not know a single person who observes Kwanzaa. Not one.

“That’s a racist holiday,” one of my sisters remarked long ago when I asked her why no one in our family celebrates. It’s true. It doesn’t take much research to figure that out. Kwanzaa was invented in the turbulent, racially-charged 1960s by Maurana Ron Kulanga, a black separatist (who was, at the time, sitting in prison for brutally torturing two women). He created Kwanzaa as an alternative to the “White” holiday, Christmas. “…Kwanzaa is not an imitation, but an alternative, in fact, and oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people . . . ” (pg 14, Kwanzaa: origin, concepts, practice. 1977). Kwanzaa was intended to be a separatist, secular holiday in which Black people can celebrate being black. Is that racist? Well let’s see…if an imprisoned  Neo-nazi leader were to create a holiday just for white people in order to celebrate being white, and to shun the cultural and religious practices of non-whites, would we consider such a holiday to be racist?What the Hell

I say yes.

Two years ago, when my youngest child brought home a Kwanzaa kinara craft from school, I considered making a complaint to his teacher. It bothers me intensely that children are being taught to accept Kwanzaa as the “African American winter holiday,” as though it is a normal, widespread part of Black American history and tradition. Well, it is not. Many of us see no need to celebrate a so-called harvest festival in the middle of winter. Many of us see no need to symbolize our heritage with corn, a Kwanzaa “First Fruits” tradition. (Corn is not even an indigenous crop to Africa, but was brought over from the New World by white people. Ironic, isn’t it?). Many of us see no need to embrace the Swahili language, which most likely was not even spoken by our ancestors, who were ripped away from West Africa and probably spoke Yoruba or Fula or something. And I personally feel insulted that anyone would assume that, because of my ethnic heritage, I would choose to celebrate such a separatist, radical holiday created by a violent criminal.

Okay, enough ranting for now. Just keep this in mind: most Black Americans do NOT observe Kwanzaa. In fact, most of us just wish it would curl up and disappear. Yes, there are a few people who see it as important, just as there are probably a few people who were happily airing their grievances and showing their feats of strength in honor of Festivus. But seriously…unless a black person walks into your store after Christmas wearing kente cloth to purchase a kinara, please do not wish us a Happy Kwanzaa. Not sure what to say? Try “Happy New Year.” It’s pretty-much non-offensive.

7 responses to “I Do Not Celebrate Kwanzaa! (And Neither Does Anyone Else)

  1. Pingback: Quote of the Day: “It is said that all journeys lead you back to where you began.” at Jacob J. Walker's Blog

  2. Thank you for a most informative article. As a marketing director in North America, I strive to be inclusive to all that enter the business that I work at. I thought it would make sense to include this holiday in my marketing plans. Learning that Mr. Kulanga was a violent perpetrator against women (I did some further research) was enough for me to put the brakes on the idea. And then, the idiocy of the adding corn and Swahili to the mix, well . . . all I can say is thank you for taking the time to share some facts. Oh, and Happy New Year!

  3. I am a therapist, and have been one for over a decade. I also provide workshops at schools, and I can honestly say out of my diverse background of clients,students none of them have ever mention celebrating this holiday.do your rant may be valid 😂

    • I used to teach in low-income public schools, and yet never met one black family who actually celebrated it. Nor do any of my many relatives, as far as I know. So strange how much attention it still gets, especially with its troubled roots.

  4. I am a therapist, and have been one for over a decade. I also provide workshops at schools, and I can honestly say out of my diverse background of clients,students none of them have ever mention celebrating this holiday. So, your rant may be valid 😂

  5. This is how our black unity lies! One came with idea of celebrating black history but all we do is find way to boycott that…different race and religious celebrate theirs but when black man stand up for his race but some people of his own race will make sure to drag him down… Indian celebrate Dwali, Chines have theirs, and many other race. Why can’t we have our own?

    We need to value more what is ours, respect more what ours and buy more from ours own people

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