Holiday principles for everyone (Dec. 8 and 9)

December 6, 2007

The other morning on one of NPR’s news programs I heard a commentary that got me thinking about the potential for holiday customs to be exclusionary. The Jewish commentator resented the suffocating importance of Christmas at this time of year, and it reminded me of an article I wrote about Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, in 2006. One of the sources for the piece co-owned a Subway, and she said she joked with her Catholic customers about her all-day fasting and their observance of meatless Fridays during Lent. It was a refreshing comment — our religious and cultural traditions have much in common, even if our observances happen at different times and in different ways, and I like when celebrations are inclusive. I do understand some people’s worries about “diluting” the meaning, but I’ve always felt it was more important to share significant events than to shut each other out of them.

That’s why Kwanzaa stirs mixed emotions — its most ardent supporters argue that it should be celebrated without reference to the other holidays happening near its Dec. 26-to Jan. 1 timeframe, and sometimes those of us who aren’t of African descent feel that we should stay away. So I’m encouraged that the organizers of the Kwanzaa Holiday Expo in the Central West End this weekend (Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Dec. 9 from noon to 6 p.m.) are inviting everyone. It takes place at the CWE Community Center (visit the homepage or call 314.367.3440 for details — the site unfortunately doesn’t have a schedule of performances, although they’re working on it today and it should be posted tomorrow). I have not attended this particular event, but I’m familiar with its parent organization, Better Family Life, and I like the fact that the expo focuses on one tenet of Kwanzaa: cooperative economics. I also really enjoy African-bazaar-style events. They’re colorful and fun, and I never fail to learn something (or eat something or hear something) new. A media release I received lists at least seven musical groups that’ll be performing, and with how much M. loves music, all I have to do to make him happy is hit the expo when there’s a performer on stage.


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