What is an African American Christmas?

Answered by Michael Wilson

An African American Christmas is a unique and vibrant holiday celebration within the African American community. It holds a special place in the hearts of many black families and individuals, as it not only celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ but also embraces and honors African heritage and culture.

Growing up in an African American household, Christmas was always a time of joy, love, and cultural pride. We would gather with extended family and friends, filling our homes with laughter, music, and the delicious aromas of traditional African American holiday dishes.

One of the most significant aspects of an African American Christmas is the celebration of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits” in Swahili, was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a prominent black activist and scholar. It takes place from December 26th to January 1st and is a week-long celebration of African American heritage and principles.

During Kwanzaa, each day is dedicated to a specific value or principle, known as the Nguzo Saba. These principles include Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). Each day, families come together to light the kinara, a candle holder with seven candles representing the principles.

In addition to Kwanzaa, African American Christmas traditions often include gospel music, which is deeply rooted in African American culture. Gospel choirs and singers fill churches and homes with soulful melodies and powerful lyrics that celebrate the birth of Christ and uplift the spirit.

Another important aspect of an African American Christmas is the emphasis on giving back to the community. Many families engage in charitable acts and volunteer their time to help those in need during the holiday season. This commitment to service reflects the value of Ujima, or collective work and responsibility, and reinforces the idea of supporting and uplifting one another.

Food also plays a significant role in an African American Christmas celebration. Traditional dishes such as collard greens, black-eyed peas, sweet potato pie, and cornbread are often enjoyed, reflecting the rich culinary heritage of African Americans. These dishes not only satisfy our taste buds but also connect us to our ancestors and the resilience they displayed throughout history.

For me, an African American Christmas is a time to reflect on our history, celebrate our culture, and strengthen our bonds as a community. It is a time to embrace our African roots and honor the contributions of our ancestors while also rejoicing in the birth of Jesus Christ.

An African American Christmas is a unique and meaningful celebration that blends the traditions of Christianity with the rich cultural heritage of the African American community. It is a time of unity, self-determination, and service, as well as a celebration of creativity and faith. This holiday season, let us all embrace and appreciate the diverse traditions that make up the fabric of our society.