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Holiday Guide Feature

Instant Kwanzaa

A Quickie Guide to Celebrating the Holiday

By Waris Banks | Posted 11/19/2003

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't know the first thing about what goes into a Kwanzaa celebration. In fact, I've never participated in one. The closet I've ever come to celebrating the holiday in the past was putting the official 1997 commemorative U.S. Kwanzaa stamp on all of my Christmas greetings. However, after doing a little bit of digging, I've discovered what goes into the holiday. I'm happy to share.

For starters, visit the Official Kwanzaa Web site to learn more about the holiday's seven principles. Kwanzaa founder Maulana Karenga also puts out an official message each year. Unlike Santa, kids can actually call Karenga on the phone.

The Kwanzaa Web site also points out that the holiday has seven symbols and two supplemental ones: Mazao (the crops), Mkeka (the mat), Kinara (the candle holder), Muhindi (the corn), Mishumaa Saba (the seven candles), Kikombe cha Umoja (the unity cup), Zawadi (the gifts). The two supplemental symbols are Bendera (the flag) and Nguzo Saba (the poster of the seven principles). Visit the Web site to understand the meaning behind these important Kwanzaa symbols.

Now where would you find all these symbols? Washington-based AfroDecor (www.afrodecor) sells Kwanzaa supplies and other "unique, affordable home and office decorating accessories and gifts in Africa-Style" online.

If online shopping isn't your thang, you can visit Everyone's Place (1380 W. North Ave, [410] 728-0877). This store and cultural center sells books, gifts, and other Kwanzaa-related items. Or you can try Sepia, Sand and Sable (6796 Reisterstown Road, [410] 318-8698). You needn't feel guilty about dropping some coins in either of these places. Just remember that you're doing it in the spirit of the important Kwanzaa principle of Ujamaa.

You've gotten your supplies and supported a black-owned business or two. So now what? Kwanzaa is also about collective fellowship. So get out of the house and make merry Kwanzaa with other folks in town. The Baltimore Museum of Art holds a Kwanzaa Family Day every year. "It's a family-friendly event that's been successful for the last 11 years," says BMA public education coordinator Kateri Harried. It takes place on Dec. 28, from 2 to 5 p.m. and includes performances by storytellers Maria Broom and Jali D. and the Philadelphia-based Kulu Mele African Dance Ensemble. The day also includes guided tours and face-painting for the kids.

The nationally known Great Blacks in Wax Museum (1601-03 E. North Ave., [410] 563-3404) also throws a Kwanzaa celebration that features drumming, poetry, and choirs on the first day of Kwanzaa, Dec. 26.

Fortunately, that's not all. The Enoch Pratt Free Library hosts celebrations at its branches around the city. These events feature storytelling in the African oral tradition. This program is presented by the Growing Griots of the Griots' Circle of Maryland, which features artists David and Mary Fakunle, Duane Hinton, and Imani Adrea. Call individual branches for more details or visit the library Web site. Happy Kwanzaa.

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Holiday Guide Feature archives

More Stories

Stuffed (11/18/2009)
The 2009 City Paper Holiday Guide

The Gifts That Count (11/18/2009)
The presents that have stayed in our writers' thoughts

The Wish List (11/18/2009)
Gifts we wish we could afford

More from Waris Banks

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Are the Civil-Rights Struggle and the Gay-Rights Struggle the Same? Yes, and No

Handing Down the Verdict (5/19/2004)
In His Baltimore Playwriting Debut, 23-Year-Old R. Eric Thomas Sets Out to Explore What Effects Brown v. Board of Education Has Passed Down to his Generation

New Moon Daughter (3/31/2004)

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