The month of December began with a celebration of Hanukkah, a Festival of Lights that commemorates the marvels or miracles of a candle that burned for 8 days and of the lowly Jewish tribe of the Maccabees overcoming the great army of the Syrians.
Then came the darkest day of the year, the winter Solstice on December 21st and the slow return of the sun that follows.
Then came the feast of Christmas and the Christmas Season that extends for 12 days through Epiphany.
And, on Christmas Day this year, the launching of the work of thousands of scientists from over 29 countries in search of the origins of light in the universe.
Now, beginning December 26, the week-long celebration of Kwanzaa that honors seven values in African culture.
Thus, we have had a very full month of deep memories from the Jewish, pagan, Christian, scientific and African traditions honoring this special time of year.
The Kwanzaa celebration began in 1966 and was created by Dr. Maulana, a black power activist and professor of Africana studies. It begins December 26 and lasts up to January 1 and is understood as “a celebration that uses the time of winter harvest to allow its celebrants to reevaluate their lives and reset for the new year.”
The name means “first fruits” and brings together solstice and harvest ceremonies common to the African continent.
At its heart lies a celebration of seven values important to African culture: Unity, Self-determination, Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.
Each day a candle is lit in honor of one of these values. The kinara or candle holder has three red candles on the left, three green candles on the right and one black candle in the center. The black candle represents the black people and is lit first. The red and green candles are lit alternatively each evening. The last night, New Year’s Eve, brings communities together, children as well as elders. (At least in pre-covid times.)
See Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from World Faith Traditions, pp. 50-79.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Lighting the Kwanzaa Candles. Photo by Askar Abayev from Pexels.
Queries for Contemplation
Can you identify with the goal of Kwanzaa to reevaluate your life and set goals for the New Year? What seven values would you like the greater human community to commit to this New Year?
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit