The holidays are one of the most festive times of the year. People dress up, decorate their houses and sing songs. Christmas and Hanukkah are well-known, but there is another, less prominent holiday around this time, often overshadowed by the Christmas trees and menorahs. Most people don’t actually know anything about this holiday, but sometimes refer to when talking about the holidays. That holiday is Kwanzaa.
Although there is a large number of people who celebrate this holiday, with about 28 million celebrants per year, many students here don’t know what Kwanzaa is. “Is that some Jewish holiday?” junior Young Sol Kim said. “Like where they take matzah and celebrate coming out of Egypt? Maybe something like that.”
Kwanzaa is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 every year, and is held in the United States and in other nations of the in the Americas. The main idea of the holiday is to celebrate African-American heritage and culture, and is a relatively young holiday since it was created just under 50 years ago, in 1966-67.
Students have lots of misconceptions about Kwanzaa, one of the most frequent of those is that the holiday is based on a religion, which it is not. “I honestly had no idea,” senior Will Quam said. “I guess I just kind of assumed it was a religious holiday because it is around the same time as Christmas and Hannukah.”
Another common misconception is that it is a substitute for Christmas. Most people who celebrate Kwanzaa also celebrate Christmas. The time period in which Kwanzaa is celebrated was chosen not as a substitute for traditional holidays but rather as a means of taking advantage of the seasonal excitement during this time of year.
Even though most students aren’t educated about what Kwanzaa is, some believe that students should know what it is about. “I think that we should be aware of this holiday in our school,” senior SGA president Alisha Dhallan said. “It’s important for students to understand different cultures around them to promote unity in school.”
Other students believe that it should be a more prominent, but for different reasons. “It’s good for young African-Americans to know their roots and not just forget them,” senior Ornella Ihirwe Bayigamba said. “It’s still part of them and it’s sad whenever someone forgets their heritage.”