We are so lucky this month! December is jam packed with holidays, and the holidays offer the accumulated wisdom of 1000s of years. Hanukah reinforces an eternal truth: Every single person can do something on behalf of community . Every single person can do something to make the world a better place. Hanukah reminds us, as well, that we must never lose our faith; that hope can arise out of seemingly hopeless situations. Hanukah begins the evening of Dec 12 th and ends Dec 20 th .
The Winter Solstice reminds us to be respectful, to be protective, and to live in a state of praise for the amazing, astonishing, awe-inspiring planet we call home. The shortest day of the year is a promise that the earth will keep spinning, the light will return, spring will follow winter, life will follow death. The seasons are simply a miracle to behold. This year, several members of the UUSR are creating a Winter Solstice celebration-please enjoy the service on Dec 21, at 7:30pm.
Christmas reveals several religious themes, beginning with the birth of Jesus: God chooses incarnation in a tiny baby, a poor baby, a baby born in a barn . Whether we think Jesus is the son of God or a fully realized human being, Jesus begins life as the poster child for powerlessness. He gains a following during his lifetime, but it is in his death that the power of his words and of his deeds-his very being, explodes. With the story of Jesus, we are offered a new paradigm for leadership.
A less well known holiday, but deserving of our attention, is Kwanzaa, a celebration created for African Americans in the midst of the Black Power movement. It begins on Dec 26, and ends Jan 1. I was reminded of Kwanzaa by an article in a positive and progressive magazine called YES! In 1966, Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa (derived from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits”). The celebration is described on the official Kwanzaa website as:
-a time of ingathering of the people to reaffirm the bonds between them;
-a time of special reverence for the creator and creation in thanks and respect for the blessings, bountifulness and beauty of creation;
-a time for commemoration of the past in pursuit of its lessons and in honor of its models of human excellence, our ancestors;
-a time of recommitment to our highest cultural ideals in our ongoing effort to always bring forth the best of African cultural thought and practice; and
-a time for celebration of the Good, the good of life and of existence itself, the good of family, community and culture, the good of the awesome and the ordinary, in a word the good of the divine, natural and social.
One of the reasons that Karenga created Kwanzaa, was to introduce and reinforce theNguzo Saba (the Seven Principles.) These seven African values are: Umoja (Unity),Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa(Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).
The author of the article in Yes magazine, Zenobia Jeffries, made changes to her holiday season so that the principles of Kwanzaa were more obvious. She tries to shop locally. It’s even better if she knows the shop owner. “Jobs and opportunities are created when dollars circulate locally. This creates healthier environments and builds community.” She tries to attend or participate in a holiday celebration outside of her own community, as “the principle of unity teaches us to strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.” Jeffries also knows the importance of doing something special for ourselves. The principle of Imani, or faith, “tells us to believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers… and the righteousness of our struggle.” (All quotations are from p. 7, Yes , Winter 2018, “I Made New Holiday Traditions to Match my Values”)
I wondered about greetings for Kwanzaa and the official website included this information: The greetings are to reinforce awareness of and commitment to the Seven Principles. It is: “Habari gani?” and the answer is each of the principles for each of the days of Kwanzaa, i.e., “Umoja”, on the first day, “Kujichagulia”, on the second day and so on.
I love the idea of incorporating significant principles into our daily living. How can we reinforce our Unitarian Universalist principles in our ordinary lives? This sounds like a great discussion topic for the new year!
In the meantime, please remember all of the holidays of the season. Please remember the wisdom inherent in these special celebrations, and focus on those lessons this month. If we can focus our minds and hearts on these lessons, and if we can skip the mall, we may arrive at the new year feeling refreshed and relaxed, fired up, and ready to go!
See you at 4 Cleaves Street!