Saturday, December 26, 2009

Santa's Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa - an Introduction
Kwanzaa is a festival that is celebrated each year from December 26th to January 1st, in honor of American heritage. The week long festival was introduced in 1966 as an amalgamation of harvest traditions followed by different African cultures. The name Kwanzaa is Swahili for "fruits of the harvest." There are seven principles of Kwanzaa:
  • Umoja - Striving for unity in the family, community, nation.
  • Kujichagulia - Seeking self determination and knowing to stand up and speak for oneself.
  • Ujima - Working together in harmony toward a common goal.
  • Ujamaa - Promoting and sustaining community and cooperative economic ventures.
  • Nia - Defining a common goal of fostering the community to honor tradition and heritage.
  • Kuumba - Utilizing creativity for the benefit of the community.
  • Imani - Believing and having deep faith in people.
Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one principle each, and the celebrations every day include discussing the principle of the day, lighting one candle of the Kinara (a seven candle holder), a music or dance performance and a feast.

Author: Garen Eileen Thomas
Illustrator: Guy Francis
Publishers: Hyperion Books for Children
Ages: All ages

Santa's Kwanzaa begins where Santa's role in Christmas ends. He delivers the last gift and heads back to the North Pole, exhausted and looking forward to the comfort of home, a cup of cocoa and warm slippers. The journey takes him all day long and finally as the 26th dawns he opens the door to his home, walks in to find his "wife-boss" and his crew of elves with a surprise for him - a banner that reads "Happy Kwanzaa, Santa Kwaz!"

That's where everything familiar to us in Christmas changes tracks. Instead of being the giver of gifts, Santa is now the receiver. The elves line up and give him gifts for each of the seven days. On the seventh day of festivities, they all sit around the table for a grand feast. Santa is touched and takes his crew on a reideer sleigh ride to bless everyone with peace and goodwill. On the last page, we're told each elf's name, Kuumba, Ujima, Ujama...and so on, they are named after the seven principles and what they do best is what their name represents. For instance, Imani's faith keeps dreams alive and Kuumba is known for his creativity.

The whole book is in soothing rhyme and celebrates the good cheer of the season. The cover illustration -gloves with African print, backgrounded against the signature red Santa suit - sets the theme of harmony and co-existence which is what the book is about.

Over the past several days, the resident Santa fan has bombarded us with several questions including, "Why doesn't Santa get any gifts?" He was thrilled to find an answer to that, as much he enjoyed poring over the illustrations of African artifacts and it led to many more questions about Kwanzaa and its significance.

Santa's Kwanzaa is a holly, jolly introduction to, and celebration of two separate festivals, with completely different origins, co-existing in harmony and spreading goodwill to everyone who respects or celebrates them.


sathish said...


very interesting. I did not know about this interesting festival. Thanks for introducing it for us.

Tharini said...

That is just beautiful. What a lovely concept that Santa should get gifts too, and how inventive and heartwarming is this fusion between 2 cultures, so seamlessly done. I would LOVE to read this book. Lovely!

Poppins said...

Can't think of anything more to add than what Tara and Satish have already said - this does sound like a treat !

utbtkids said...

Wow interesting, combining Kwanzaa and Santa Claus!

Sheela said...

How nice that Santa gets gifts! And the names of the 7 elves as it relates to the principles... nice touch. Thanks, KM!!

And what you said about festivals,
" in harmony and spreading goodwill to everyone who respects or celebrates them." is so true. If we can get this point across to our kids and the next generation, wouldn't the world would be a better place :)

Choxbox said...

Wow! Did know anything at all about Kwanzaa. Sounds like a treat!

Praba Ram said...

Loved the unifying, cross-cultural intersection of the two holidays with Santa as the binding factor. One warm and soothing breath of air on a gusty, bone chilling day over here! Thanks, K for this neat suggestion.

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