Merry Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Longhu6: Take your pick

Posted 26 December 2010 by
Love in the Ruins

Love in the Ruins

A professor in one of my college writing classes decided to do an apocalypse theme the semester I took her class. All our writing assignments were based on books with an end-times theme. Ishi, Last of His Tribe. Night. Earth Abides. All of this would get to be too depressing if there was not any comic relief. So, mid-semester we read Love in the Ruins: The Adventure of a bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World (quotes retrieved December 26, 2010).

Walker Percy took us imagined journey into an American apocalypse. Well, maybe it was imagined.

For politics, Percy said the Democrats gave way to the new Left Party that goes by a name that was given to it by the Right. The Republican Party became the Knothead Party after someone caught what the abbreviation of the original proposed new name, the Christian Conservative Constitutional Party, would be. (This was written during the Cold War.) Percy tells us that “the center did not hold” (page 18).

There were Left states and Knothead states, Left towns and Knothead towns, even Left television networks and Knothead television networks. “The most popular Left films are the dirty movies from Sweden. All time Knothead favorites, on the other hand, include The Sound of Music, Flubber, and Ice Capades of 1981, clean movies all” (page 18).

There is another passage near the end of the book that is also telling. After the Bantus become the primary people in the community, the name of the December holiday changes. It is now Longhu6, named for the Bantu god of the winter solstice (page 389). Sometimes people lapse into old ways, though (page 390):

“Merry Christmas,” I say absently and thank them for the ride.

“Merry Longhu6!” says Fran, smiling but firm-eyed.

Percy tells us that there are no real changes in how most people kept the earlier holiday Christmas versus the later holiday Longhu6. Only the faithful remnant remembered what Christmas supposed to be about.

On Sunday, December 26, 2010, Weekend Edition Sunday had an interview called “The Value of Kwanzaa.” Mr. Keith Mayes had the following to say:

We should applaud Kwanzaa’s growth in American society, but we should also remain aware of a cautionary tale so often associated with holidays. Too much variation and too many usages will cause Kwanzaa to lose its original purpose. Just ask its neighbor, Christmas.

Is it reasonable to expect anything else?

While Christmas is not the most important Christian holiday, but is one of the three major holidays of the church. Christmas had nothing to do with warm, cozy feelings. Christmas was not about coming together with loved ones. Christmas is not about building community or feeding the poor. Instead, Christmas marks God becoming human to bring about the salvation and redemption of the world.

Scrooge and Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol

Scrooge and Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol

It is true that Christmas was not always kept as a religious holiday. Still, Christmas was not about warm feelings, loved ones, building community, or feeding the poor until Charles Dickens convinced us there was another reason for Christmas in A Christmas Carol. Spirits change Scrooge to become an example for all us.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

This is Christianity without Christ. It is the result without the cause.

The Kwanzaa principles of Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith) are all great values to encourage. All Americans should learn all of these lessons, not only African Americans. But, if Christianity cannot save Christmas from morphing into a holiday atheists can celebrate, how can African Americans save Kwanzaa from adoption by others?

Kwanzaa US Postage Stamp

Kwanzaa US Postage Stamp

The child of Kwanzaa has grown up and left home to find its way in the world. How long will it take for Disney to create a storyline about a Wise Community Leader visiting children on a chariot pulled by impalas to encourage them to be good? You can bemoan the shift of Kwanzaa as much as I bemoan the loss of the period that starts December 25 that is supposed to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It really does not do any good to bewail our society’s shortcomings.

It is good to bewail our own personal shortcomings, though. Each of us needs to remember what the original celebration is really about, and keep it. Make your celebration such that others want to join you in keeping the original. Because, for most people, it does not make any difference whether it is Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Longhu6.

Since Walker Percy predicted finding a live ivory billed woodpecker in Louisiana (page 387ff), maybe we should pay attention.

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