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Read About Tessa's Celebration
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Kwanzaa is a special time of year at my house. Imagine Christmas Day
going on and on for a whole week! That's what it's like. We celebrate
who we are -- the Franklin family! And we celebrate being African Americans.
Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas -- December 26 and goes until January
1st. The word, Kwanzaa, means "first fruits" in Swahili. Dad says that
means we're celebrating the fruit of our hands and spirits. So, every
night of Kwanzaa, after dinner, we do something special to celebrate one
of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
My older brother, Mike, does wood work. He's an architect. So he made
us a kinara. That's a wooden candle holder with seven candles in it --
one for each day of Kwanzaa. There's a black candle in the middle, and
three red ones on the left and three green ones on the right. Every night,
Lauren starts the celebration by lighting one of the candles. We let her
do it because she's the youngest.
On the first night, my dad gives a talk about the principle of umoja,
unity. Last year he told us how being in the Air Force teaches him umoja.
Everyone in the Air Force depends on everyone else to do their job. It's
like a big family. If they don't hang together, it doesn't work. There's
no unity. Dad says it's important for us to hang together as a family,
too. To look out for each other. Then we have a family meeting. We talk
about how well we've been hanging together. We talk about what needs work,
The third night
of Kwanzaa is all about ujima. That means working together and being responsible
for your home and surroundings. Mom really likes this day because we get
to do some work together as a family. Last year we painted our wooden
patio furniture. We got paint everywhere and it was fun!
The fourth night of Kwanzaa celebrates ujamaa. It's about cooperative
economics. That means pooling our money and resources together to help
each other and our community. This is my big brother Mike's special night
to shine. He volunteers for "Habitat For Humanity", so we all pour the
money we've saved during the year into a big pile and count it. Then we
donate the money to buy materials to build houses for poor people to own.
Last year, the Franklin Family saved up $638.54! We saved most of the
money by recycling newspapers and plastic bottles.
Jake, my older sister, really likes the fifth principle of Kwanzaa. It's
called nia, and it's about having purpose in your life. We invite friends
and family over, and Jake pulls out her guitar. She sings songs and tells
stories about planning for the future. (Jake says that she could've been
Whitney Houston if she went into music instead of nursing.) Her big plan
for the future right now is to learn how to teach neonatal nursing. We
all talk about what we're going to do with our lives and what steps we're
taking to make those dreams real.
The sixth principle of Kwanzaa, kuuma, is creativity. That's my day. It's
New Years eve -- time for the Franklin Follies! We invite family and friends
over, and I pull everything together. Everybody has to do something --
even mom and dad. They have to recite a poem or sing or dance or paint
something and show it off. Last year, mom wrote a computer program that
played a song and showed pictures of her courtship with dad. It was sooo
cool! Then mom pours everyone a tiny cup of champagne or sparkling apple
cider. We turn on the TV and watch that ball drop in Times Square. Then
we all wish each other happiness for the New Year.
seventh day of Kwanzaa is all about imani, faith that the New Year will
be a good one. We have a big dinner for the whole family. It's a karamu,
a feast. My sister, Lauren, helps me set the table. For a centerpiece,
we put out a straw placemat (a mkeka) that my older sister, Jake, got
from Africa. It's got beautiful patterns in black and red and green. Mom
says that it represents our family. We put an ear of corn in the middle
for each kid -- one for me, one for Lauren, one for Jake and one for my
older brother, Mike. I always put an extra one onto the table to remember
my brother, Greg, who died a few years ago.
My mom's sister, Toni, always brings a whole bunch of fruit: apples, bananas,
oranges and nuts and candy to remind us to say thanks for what we eat,
the fruit of the earth. One year, Lauren put I/O -- that's my Iguana --
on one of the dining room chairs. I/O climbed up onto the table. All of
a sudden, we had an Iguana and fruit centerpiece! I/O really startled
my aunt when something on the table moved.
My dad got a computer program that keeps track of where all our ancestors
were born and what they did. We Franklin's are like every family -- we're
a colorful bunch. Dad wants us all to collect everything we can about
the Franklin and Johnson (that's my mom's family) heritage. So after dinner,
the whole family pulls out their photo albums and birth certificates and
we tell stories. It's our way of honoring our ancestors and doing something
It takes us the first two weeks of January to clean up from all the fun.
Everybody is sooo tired. But it's worth it. I hope you have lots of fun
with your family this holiday season too. --Your cyberfriend,
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