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President Obama: New Year Is a Hopeful Time

President Barack Obama has wished all Americans a happy and healthy New Year. President Obama says he hopes that brighter days will be ahead in 2010.

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Celebrating Kwanzaa

The History of Kwanzaa

Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa in 1966. After the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Dr. Karenga searched for ways to bring African-Americans together as a community. He founded US, a cultural organization, and started to research African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa.

The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. Click here for the symbols. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.

The candle-lighting ceremony each evening provides the opportunity to gather and discuss the meaning of Kwanzaa. The first night, the black candle in the center is lit (and the principle of umoja/unity is discussed). One candle is lit each evening and the appropriate principle is discussed.

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The Seven Principles

The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.

Unity Umoja (oo–MO–jah)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Self-determination Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Collective Work and Responsibility Ujima (oo–GEE–mah)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Cooperative Economics Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Purpose Nia (nee–YAH)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Creativity Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Faith Imani (ee–MAH–nee)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

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The Seven Symbols

Mazao Fruits, Nuts, and Vegetables
Mazao, the crops (fruits, nuts, and vegetables), symbolizes work and the basis of the holiday. It represents the historical foundation for Kwanzaa, the gathering of the people that is patterned after African harvest festivals in which joy, sharing, unity, and thanksgiving are the fruits of collective planning and work. Since the family is the basic social and economic center of every civilization, the celebration bonded family members, reaffirming their commitment and responsibility to each other. In Africa the family may have included several generations of two or more nuclear families, as well as distant relatives. Ancient Africans didn’t care how large the family was, but there was only one leader – the oldest male of the strongest group. For this reason, an entire village may have been composed of one family. The family was a limb of a tribe that shared common customs, cultural traditions, and political unity and were supposedly descended from common ancestors. The tribe lived by traditions that provided continuity and identity. Tribal laws often determined the value system, laws, and customs encompassing birth, adolescence, marriage, parenthood, maturity, and death. Through personal sacrifice and hard work, the farmers sowed seeds that brought forth new plant life to feed the people and other animals of the earth. To demonstrate their mazao, celebrants of Kwanzaa place nuts, fruit, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.

Mkeka Place Mat
Mkeka Place MatThe mkeka, made from straw or cloth, comes directly from Africa and expresses history, culture, and tradition. It symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for us to stand on and build our lives because today stands on our yesterdays, just as the other symbols stand on the mkeka. In 1965, James Baldwin wrote: “For history is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the facts that we carry it within us, are consciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.” During Kwanzaa, we study, recall, and reflect on our history and the role we are to play as a legacy to the future. Ancient societies made mats from straw, the dried seams of grains, sowed and reaped collectively. The weavers took the stalks and created household baskets and mats. Today, we buy mkeka that are made from Kente cloth, African mud cloth, and other textiles from various areas of the African continent. The mishumaa saba, the vibunzi, the mazao, the zawadi, the kikombe cha umoja, and the kinara are placed directly on the mkeka.

Vibunzi Ear of Corn
Ears of Corn The stalk of corn represents fertility and symbolizes that through the reproduction of children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One ear is called vibunzi, and two or more ears are called mihindi. Each ear symbolizes a child in the family, and thus one ear is placed on the mkeka for each child in the family. If there are no children in the home, two ears are still set on the mkeka because each person is responsible for the children of the community. During Kwanzaa, we take the love and nurturance that was heaped on us as children and selflessly return it to all children, especially the helpless, homeless, loveless ones in our community. Thus, the Nigerian proverb “It takes a whole village to raise a child” is realized in this symbol (vibunzi), since raising a child in Africa was a community affair, involving the tribal village, as well as the family. Good habits of respect for self and others, discipline, positive thinking, expectations, compassion, empathy, charity, and self-direction are learned in childhood from parents, from peers, and from experiences. Children are essential to Kwanzaa, for they are the future, the seed bearers that will carry cultural values and practices into the next generation. For this reason, children were cared for communally and individually within a tribal village. The biological family was ultimately responsible for raising its own children, but every person in the village was responsible for the safety and welfare of all the children.

Mishumaa Saba The Seven Candles
Candles are ceremonial objects with two primary purposes: to re-create symbolically the sun’s power and to provide light. The celebration of fire through candle burning is not limited to one particular group or country; it occurs everywhere. Mishumaa saba are the seven candles: three red, three green, and one black. The back candle symbolizes Umoja (unity), the basis of success, and is lit on December 26. The three green candles, representing Nia, Ujima, and Imani, are placed to the right of the Umoja candle, while the three red candles, representing Kujichagulia, Ujamaa, and Kuumba, are placed to the left of it. During Kwanzaa, on candle, representing one principle, is lit each day. Then the other candles are relit to give off more light and vision. The number of candles burning also indicate the principle that is being celebrated. The illuminating fire of the candles is a basic element of the universe, and every celebration and festival includes fire in some form. Fire’s mystique, like the sun, is irresistible and can destroy or create with its mesmerizing, frightening, mystifying power.

Mishumaa saba’s symbolic colors are from the red, black, and green flag (bendara) created by Marcus Garvey. The colors also represent African gods. Red is the color of Shango, the Yoruba god of fire, thunder, and lightning, who lives in the clouds and sends down his thunderbolt whenever he is angry or offended. It also represents the struggle for self-determination and freedom by people of color. Black is the people, the earth, the source of life, representing hope, creativity, and faith and denoting messages and the opening and closing of doors. Green represents the earth that sustains our lives and provides hope, divination, employment, and the fruits of the harvest

Kinara The Candleholder
The kinara is the center of the Kwanzaa setting and represents the original stalk from which we came: our ancestry. The kinara can be shape – straight lines, semicircles, or spirals – as long as the seven candles are separate and distinct, like a candelabra. Kinaras are made from all kinds of materials, and many celebrants create their own from fallen branches, wood, or other natural materials. The kinara symbolizes the ancestors, who were once earth bound; understand the problems of human life; and are willing to protect their progeny from danger, evil, and mistakes. In African festivals the ancestors are remembered and honored. The mishumaa saba are placed in the kinara.

Kikombe Cha Umoja The Unity Cup
The kikombe cha umoja is a special cup that is used to perform the libation (tambiko) ritual during the Karamu feast on the sixth day of Kwanzaa. In many African societies libation are poured for the living dead whose souls stay with the earth they tilled. The Ibo of Nigeria believe that to drink the last portion of a libation is to invite the wrath of the spirits and the ancestors; consequently, the last part of the libation belongs to the ancestors. During the Karamu feast, the kikombe cha umoja is passed to family member and guests, who drink from it to promote unity. Then, the eldest person present pours the libation (tambiko), usually water, juice, or wine, in the direction of the four winds – north, south, east, and west – to honor the ancestors. The eldest asks the gods and ancestors to share in the festivities and, in return, to bless all the people who are not at the gathering. After asking for this blessing, the elder pours the libation on the ground and the group says “Amen.” Large Kwanzaa gatherings may operate just as communion services in most churches, for which it is common for celebrants to have individual cups and to drink the libation together as a sign of unity. Several families may have a cup that is specifically for the ancestors, and everyone else has his or her own. The last few ounces of the libation are poured into the cup of the host or hostess, who sips it and then hands it to the oldest person in the group, who asks for the blessing.

Zawadi Gifts
When we celebrate Imani on the seventh day of Kwanzaa, we give meaningful zawadi (gifts) to encourage growth, self-determination, achievement, and success. We exchange the gifts with members of our immediate family, especially the children, to promote or reward accomplishments and commitments kept, as well as with our guests. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity and to avoid the chaos of shopping and conspicuous consumption during the December holiday season. A family may spend the year making kinaras or may create cards, dolls, or mkekas to give to their guests. Accepting a gift implies a moral obligation to fulfill the promise of the gift; it obliges the recipient to follow the training of the host. The gift cements social relationships, allowing the receiver to share the duties and the rights of a family member. Accepting a gift makes the receiver part of the family and promotes Umoja.

Excerpted from the book: The Complete Kwanzaa Celebrating Our Cultural Harvest. Copyright 1995 by Dorothy Winbush Riley. Reprinted with permission from HarperPerennial, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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44-D’s Twenty-Five Days of Christmas Music Videos


December 1st Do They Know Its Christmas? (Band Aid)

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December 2nd The Christmas Song (Christina Aguilera)

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December 3rd Christmas Time is Here (Toni Braxton)

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December 4th Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt and Friends)

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December 5th I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas (Bing Crosby)

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December 6th Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Luther Vandross)

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December 7th Joy to the world (Mahalia Jackson)

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December 8th Thank God Its Christmas (Queen)

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December 9th Last Christmas (Wham!)

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December 10th The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole)

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December 11th Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley)

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December 12th Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano)

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December 13th Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (James Taylor)

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December 14th Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland)

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December 15th Let It Snow (Boyz II Men)

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December 16th Jingle Bells (Bebe and Cece Winans)

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December 17th Little Drummer Boy (Celtic Woman)

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December 18th Here Comes Santa Claus (Gene Autry)

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December 19th The First Noël (Allison Crowe)

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December 20th Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (John Denver)

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December 21st Merry Christmas, Baby (Bruce Springsteen)

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December 22nd Silent Night (Kelly Price)

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December 23rd All I Want For Christmas is You (Mariah Carey)

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December 24th Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee)

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December 25th Merry Christmas Darling (The Carpenters)

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44-D’s Twenty-Five Days of Christmas Music Videos (Dec 20th)

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Performed by John Denver

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a Christmas song introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis. Frank Sinatra later recorded a version with modified lyrics, which has become more common than the original. The song was credited to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, although during a December 21, 2006 NPR interview, Martin said that Blane had encouraged him to write the song but had not had anything more to do with writing it. In 2007, ASCAP ranked “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” the third most performed Christmas song written by ASCAP members of the past five years.


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Lyrics

Christmas future is far away
Christmas past is past
Christmas present is here today
Bringing joy that may last

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
May your heart be light
In a year our troubles will be out of sight
From now on

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
In a year our troubles will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Precious friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

I know that
In a year we all will be together
If the Fates allow
Until then, we’ll just have to muddle through somehow
And have ourselves a merry little Christmas now.

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44-D’s Twenty-Five Days of Christmas Music Videos (Dec 19th)

The First Noël Performed by Allison Crowe

The First Nowell” (sometimes The First Noel or just Noel) is a traditional English Christmas carol, most likely from the 18th century. In its current form it is of Cornish origin, and it was first published in Some Ancient Christmas Carols (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys Christmas Carols (1833), edited by William B. Sandys and arranged, edited and with extra lyrics written by Davies Gilbert. The melody is unusual among English folk melodies in that it consists of one musical phrase repeated twice, followed by a variation on that phrase. All three phrases end on the third of the scale. The refrain, also unusually, merely repeats the melody of the verse. It is thought to be a corruption of an earlier melody sung in a church gallery setting; a conjectural reconstruction of the earlier version can be found in the New Oxford Book of Carols .

The word Nowell comes from the French word Noël meaning “Christmas“, from the Latin word natalis (“birth“). It may also be from the Gaulish words “noio” or “neu” meaning “new” and “helle” meaning “light” referring to the winter solstice when sunlight begins overtaking darkness.


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Lyrics

The first Noel the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Refrain:
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
shining in the east, beyond them far;
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night.
(Refrain)

And by the light of that same star
three Wise Men came from country far;
to seek for a king was their intent,
and to follow the star wherever it went.
(Refrain)

This star drew nigh to the northwest,
o’er Bethlehem it took its rest;
and there it did both stop and stay,
right over the place where Jesus lay.
(Refrain)

Then entered in those Wise Men three,
full reverently upon the knee,
and offered there, in his presence,
gold and myrrh and frankincense.

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44-D’s Twenty-Five Days of Christmas Music Videos (Dec 18th)

Here Comes Santa Claus Performed by Gene Autry

Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)” is a Christmas song written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman.

Autry got the idea for the song after riding his horse in the 1946 Santa Claus Lane Parade in Los Angeles, during which crowds of spectators chanted, “Here comes Santa Claus“. This inspired him to write a song that Haldeman set to music. A demo recording was made by singer/guitarist Johnny Bond, whose recording made use of ice cubes to mimic the sound of the jingling sleigh-bells. This inspired the use of real sleigh-bells in Autry’s own recording of the song.

Autry first recorded the song in 1947; released as a single by Columbia Records, it became a #5 country and #9 pop hit. He re-recorded it again for Columbia in 1953 and once more for his own Challenge Records label in 1957.


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Lyrics

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer
Pullin’ on the reins
Bells are ringin’, children singin’
All is merry and bright
Hang your stockings and say your prayers
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He’s got a bag that’s filled with toys
For boys and girls again
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle,
Oh what a beautiful sight
So jump in bed and cover your head
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we’re all Gods children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He’ll come around when the chimes ring out
That it’s Christmas morn again
Peace on earth will come to all
It we just follow the light
So lets give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!

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44-D’s Twenty-Five Days of Christmas Music Videos (Dec 17th)

Little Drummer Boy Performed by Celtic Woman

The Little Drummer Boy” is a popular Christmas song, with words and music by Katherine K. Davis. Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone have been credited with writing the song, even though they were only the arrangers for their recordings of it. The version that made the song popular was the one sung and recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale. It is also known as the “Carol of the Drum“.

Davis first composed the words and music for “Carol of the Drum” (ostensibly transcribed from a traditional Czech carol) in 1941. In 1957 Onorati arranged the song for a recording by the Jack Halloran Singers on Dot Records, but this version was not released in time for Christmas. The following year Simeone re-arranged the song yet again and retitled it for his Chorale’s hit single version, which was issued on 20th Fox Records’ 45-121 with a 45rpm picture sleeve, then on their LP called Sing We Now of Christmas, which became an enormous bestseller. In 1963 the company, now known as 20th Century Fox Records, retitled and reissued their album. It was now called The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Festival, in order to boost sales even higher, as the 45-rpm single had continued to be a seasonal hit.


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Lyrics

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

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