This is now one of the best times of the year in my opinion. Even if you don’t celebrate a particular holiday, it is great to acknowledge the power of love, offering and being surrounded by others. I personally celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas — growing up in a Christian family has made this time very important to me. When I think about the holidays, I realize the integrity of culture to the traditions of these celebrations. I am used to going to church more during this season and having huge family dinners consisting of soul food and card games.
But there is another holiday that I realize has ties to my heritage that I have yet to formally celebrate: Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday celebrated from December 26th to January 1st in and around the United States to celebrate and honor African heritage in our culture. For some reason when I was in elementary school learning about Kwanzaa, I always thought of it as something celebrated by people of another culture. I didn’t have any friends who celebrated it even though the majority of my friends were also African-American, so it never seemed strange to me that my family never did.
I think the reasoning for this is sometimes it is hard for people of African descent to think of ourselves as African. We are called “African-American,” but many of us have no idea what country in Africa our ancestors came from. I guess this brings the question of what African heritage means in America.
When I have to check off boxes describing myself, I always have to check off “Black/African-American.” I am an American citizen, and I know that I have African ancestry, but somehow I always feel guilty for calling myself “African.” This is an issue that many people come across because we don’t have a straightforward answer as to where our ancestors came from. Is it okay for us to celebrate it even if we don’t feel connected to African culture? I have to be honest, if someone asked me to name one African tradition or even something of my heritage, I would struggle. This is why celebrating a holiday that is supposed to be dedicated to my “heritage” is difficult. I don’t know my heritage or what it means. This is something that I will continue to think about as I am enjoying the holidays this season –– and I might even celebrate Kwanzaa, too.