Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob – Kwanzaa

Dear Uncle Bob and Aunt Louise: I am hearing about a holiday called Kwanzaa that is coming up soon in December and I have never heard of it before. I reached out to my very own uncle and aunt back in my country to ask them about this because they traveled to the US in the early 1960s. They told me they never heard of a holiday called Kwanzaa! How can this be? What is Kwanzaa?

Aunt Louise replies: That seems pretty mysterious, doesn’t it? How could your aunt and uncle possibly miss a holiday during their time in the US? The mystery is solved when you learn Kwanzaa is a created holiday for celebrating family and culture within the African and African American community. And it only in 1966 that this holiday, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies, came to be. This seven-day cultural festival takes place from December 26 through January 1 each year, with families and communities coming together for events that reflect the Seven Principles (called the Nguzo Saba).

Uncle Bob replies: Louise, I always knew I married a smart woman! Tell me more about those Seven Principles.

Aunt Louise: Bob, dear, marrying me made you a smart man. The Seven Principles are…

  • Umoja (Unity)
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
  • Nia (Purpose)
  • Kuumba (Creativity)
  • Imani (Faith)

On Imani everyone must ask themselves: who am I, am I really who I am and am I all I ought to be? This is a beautiful idea that speaks not only to Africans but to all people concerned with reaffirming family, community and culture, and in realizing that essential meaning and purpose of human life, to bring good into the world.

Uncle Bob: That message is downright lovely. And I bet the celebrations themselves are lovely as well.

Aunt Louise: Indeed, my dear. Colorful clothes and art, fresh fruits, drumming and music, candle-lighting, artistic performances, sharing beverages, and of course a feast. All of this makes for a “Joyous Kwanzaa” which is the holiday greeting.

Uncle Bob: I am glad that one of the international students asked us this. Not only did I learn something, I think I’ve missed out. Now that “bucket lists” have become popular, I am adding a Kwanzaa celebration to mine. Maybe one of our readers (or “followers,” as they say) will invite us to celebrate with them.

Aunt Louise: That would be lovely.

officialkwanzaawebsite.org

International Student Blog

Introducing… Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob

Uncle Bob and Aunt Louise are a traditional southern couple, kind, easy to talk with, not too fancy, but they like to do things “the right way.” Uncle Bob washes the car and tends the garden and his hybrid rosebushes. Aunt Louise keeps a clean house, embroiders and crochets. They cook at home, but since they’ve retired, they enjoy going out for chicken biscuit breakfasts—it’s just too much trouble to make two biscuits!

So why would you want to know Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob? Perhaps you have a question about American or Southern culture or etiquette, but don’t know whom to ask. Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob are ready to help! Send your questions via email to Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob at office@amis-inc.org.

We’ll start with some Thanksgiving questions …

What is this Thanksgiving holiday? We don’t have this at home.

Uncle Bob replies: In 1620, some folks we call the Pilgrims came over from Plymouth England, on a ship called the Mayflower, looking for religious freedom. They had a dangerous trip and a hard winter, but they met a Native American called Squanto the following Spring. Squanto showed the survivors how to plant corn and other vegetables, to use the maple sap (syrup), and to avoid poisonous plants. The remaining Pilgrims (about half) survived. Thanksgiving may be one of the first harvest festivals, a celebration of thanks to Squanto, his friends who helped, and to God. They repeated this celebration the following year (1623). The holiday was celebrated often with various dates until President Lincoln made the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday in 1863.

Why turkey? Or all those pies?

Aunt Louise answers: Now everyone loves to eat! And we all eat too much of it at Thanksgiving! But the Pilgrims did not have turkey at the first Thanksgiving, and they were out of sugar and there were no ovens, so they did not eat any pies. We know from diaries that Pilgrim men went fishing and hunting before the event, so we can assume they ate seafood and venison as well as the bounty from the gardens! (I can my veggies in Mason jars, and they are a beautiful sight! My grandmother would dry green beans strung on thread and called “leather britches” (pants). They weren’t pretty, but they were tasty!) My best guess on the turkey, other than grocery advertising, goes to a bit of artwork: Norman Rockwell/ Freedom from Wanta painting of a multi-generational family dinner which was distributed in 1943 popular magazine, The Saturday Evening Post. (The artist said it was the only time he ate the model!) So, there’s no rule that you have to have turkey at Thanksgiving, but most of us do feast!

Aunt Louise: We’re going to sit on the porch swing a while and have some iced tea. We would love to hear from you. Send us some questions, and we’ll write back directly.

Uncle Bob: She means in the next newsletter. See y’all next time!

Love,

Aunt Louise and Uncle Bob

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