I was originally going to create a page here devoted to the Christmas Holiday, traditional links...etc. Karen Papouchado was kind enough to remind me that Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated by this community around this time of year. This has been an enlightening experience for me putting this page together, I hope it will be the same for you, but....for now..Welcome to the holidays page!

  • Christmas
  • Christmas Links
  • Hannukah
  • Kwanzaa
  • Ramadan
  • Aiken Holiday Events

    General Christmas Traditions


    From old English Cristes maesse (Christ's Mass), older still, Yule, from the Germanic root geol. In some languages:

    English: Christmas, Yule, Noel
    German: Weihnachten
    Finnish: Joulu
    Swedish: Jul
    Italian: Il Natale
    Spanish: La Natividad
    French: Noel

    The traditional Christmas is not a single day but a prolonged period, normally from 24th December to 6th January. This included the New Year, thus increasing the festival value of Christmas.


    From old Persian language, a priest of Zarathustra (Zoroaster). The Bible gives us the direction, East and the legend states that the wise men were from Persia (Iran) - Balthasar, Melchior, Caspar - thus being priests of Zarathustra religion, the mages. Obviously the pilgrimage had some religious significance for these men, otherwise they would not have taken the trouble and risk of traveling so far. But what was it? An astrological phenomenon, the Star? This is just about all we know about it.

    The Christmas card

    The practice of sending Christmas greeting cards to friends was initiated by Sir Henry Cole in England. The year was 1843 and the first card was designed by J.C.Horsley. It was commercial - 1000 copies were sold in London. An English artist, William Egley, produced a popular card in 1849. From the beginning the themes have been as varied as the Christmas customs worldwide.


    The astrological/astronomical phenomenon which triggered the travel of the Magi to give presents to child Jesus. Variously described as a supernova or a conjunction of planets it supposedly happened around the year 7 BC - the most probable true birth year of Christ. Star is often put to the top of the Christmas tree.

    Christmas Day

    The traditional date for the appearance of Santa Claus, obviously from the birthdate of Jesus (the word Christmas is from old English, meaning Christ's mass). This date is near the shortest day of the year, from old times an important agricultural and solar feasting period in Europe. The actual birthday of Jesus is not known and thus the early Church Fathers in the 4th century fixed the day as was most convenient. The best fit seemed to be around the old Roman Saturnalia festival (17 - 21 December), a traditional pagan festivity with tumultuous and unruly celebrations. Moreover, in 273 Emperor Aurelianus had invented a new pagan religion, the cult of Sol Invictus (invincible sun, the same as the Iranian god Mithra), the birthday of this god being 25th December (natalis sol invicti). The Christian priests obviously saw this choice as doubly meritorious: using the old customary and popular feasting date but changing the rough pagan ways into a more civilized commemoration.

    The first mention of the birthday of Jesus is from the year 354. Gradually all Christian churches, except Armenians (celebrating 6th January which date is for others the baptismal day of Jesus and the day of the three Magi), accepted the day. In American/English tradition the Christmas Day itself is the day for Santa, in German/Scandinavian tradition the Christmas Eve is reserved for presents.

    Christmas symbols

    Candles,fires: Summer, warmth, paradise, end of darkness, Jewish Hanukkah
    Tree: Eternal life, Paradise tree, pagan symbol
    Apples: Apple of Paradise
    Reindeer: A prop
    Santa Claus: St Nicholas, pagan deity
    Gifts: Customary (Romans, pagans everywhere), Magi
    Mistletoe: Peace, kisses
    Holly: Christ's crown of thorns
    Gnomes: Pagan entirely
    Straw: Stable & crib, pagan, handy material for deco
    Sock: A prop (as chimney etc.)

    Christmas Crib

    Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. In Catholic countries this fact is brought to mind with miniature replicas of the nativity scene. The manger, animals, miniatures of Jesus, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and the Three Magi are part of this very popular symbol. It was started (says the legend) by St. Franciscus of Assisi. The Pope has his own in Rome but nowadays the custom is followed in Protestant countries, too.


    Sacred to ancient druids and a symbol of eternal life the same way as Christmas tree. The Romans valued it as a symbol of peace and this lead eventually its acceptance among Christmas props. Kissing under mistletoe was a Roman custom, too.


    Anything goes nowadays. In old times they were simple, wood, paper, straw and often very intricate. Themes follow the general taste of each time but national traditions can be discerned even now.

    Christmas gifts

    There are many roots of this custom. There is St.Nicholas the anonymous benefactor, there is the tradition of Magi giving precious gifts to Jesus, there is the Roman custom of giving gifts of good luck to children during Saturnalia. The day of gift giving varies greatly in different Christian cultures and times:

    6th December - in memory of St. Nicholas
    24th December - Christmas Eve
    25th December - Birthday of Jesus
    1st of January - the New year
    6th of January - The Epiphany, day of the Three Wise men, the Magi

    The giver of the presents are many: Jesus himself, Old Father Christmas, Santa Claus, a Goat, Befana (the female Santa in Italy), the three Magi, Christmas gnomes, various Saints, the Kolyada (in Russia), the Joulupukki (in Finland). The oldest Finnish tradition did not necessarily involve a giver of the presents at all: an unseen person threw the gifts in from the door and quickly disappeared.

    Christmas carols

    The Catholic Church valued music greatly and it is no wonder that the early Christmas songs date from 4th century (the earliest known is Jesus refulsit omnium by St.Hilary of Poitiers). The Mediaeval Christmas music followed the Gregorian tradition. In Renaissance Italy there emerged a lighter and more joyous kind of Christmas songs, more like the true carols (from the French word caroler, meaning to dance in a ring). These songs continued to be religious and in Latin, though. In Protestant countries the tradition, as everything Christmas-related, intensified.

    Luther wrote and composed his song "From Heaven above I come to You". Music by Handel and Mendelssohn was adapted and used as Christmas carols. The old Finnish/Swedish collection Piae Cantiones was translated and published in English in mid - 19th century. The most famous of all, Silent Night (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) was written by the Austrian parish priest Joseph Mohr and composed by Franz Gruber, church organist, in 1818. In 19th century and later many popular songs were written by composers (e.g. Adam, Sibelius). The themes of songs surpassed religion and the totality of Christmas paraphernalia found its way to carol music.

    Christmas plays

    Religious plays were part of the Medieval Christian tradition and many of them were connected with Christmas. The plays were often communal with pageants and general participation. A popular theme was the coming of the Magi (the Three Kings), because the plot allowed lots of pomp and decorative props to please the audience. These plays live on in many places, for instance in Finland in the form of the traditional Star Boys drama.


    Christmas means eating in most parts of the Christian world. In old societies hunger was the supreme king and eating was the highest contrast, the supreme way to nirvana. Meat of some kind was the most important dish (was this connected with the words of Jesus, "this is my flesh"?), often pork, ham,goose, (later turkey), fish (carp, salmon). An innumerable variety of cakes and pastries, often very intricate and only baked for Christmas were and are known throughout the world. Cakes could be hung from the Christmas tree, too.

    Original Author: Jarno Tarkoma.

    Christmas Links

  • Nonie's Web Page A lovely site for children.
  • Alice's Advent Calendar A gorgeous Advent calendar
  • Season's Greetings Another lovely Advent calendar
  • Decorate your email signature file!


  • Ho! Ho! Ho! Xmas stories and recipes
  • Santa's Home Page Recipes, ornaments, gift ideas and books


  • The Knight's Christmas Links Tons of unusual and entertaining Christmas links
  • Merry Christmas Page Lots of Christmas links
  • The Christmas Tree of Links Links to many Christmas-related sites
  • Happy Holidays from The Editors! Surprise links change daily
  • Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! Unusual and interesting Christmas links


  • Happy Holidays from Crayola Brilliant site for children
  • Usinger's Chrismas Search the 'Net and win prizes with this quiz


  • Stories for Christmas with Fireside Al Download stories from CBC Radio
  • Zia Christmas Crafts, music and movies


  • A World Wide Christmas Calendar A project by Danish school children
  • 2BBOC A site for people who were born at Christmas
  • Ipswich Global Information Christmas the Australian way
  • Christmas Down Under Another Australian Christmas
  • Hoppe's Holiday Pages: Talking Santa Click on Santa's face and see what happens
  • Holiday graphics by Celeste More beautiful festive graphics
  • Let There Be Lights Check out this festive car
  • Santa's Helpers Lots of Christmas information, stories, songs and poems
  • Santa on Beach Patrol Order Christmas cards on-line
  • Comedy Bytes! Christmas Funnies

  • Aiken Hollydays- Friday, November 29th

  • For 10 years, SECRET SANTA, a community service program sponsored by South Aiken Presbyterian Church, has sought to remember children at Christmas time. As of last Christmas, Aiken County residents have sponsored over 10,000 children. Serving families in poverty, we receive applications from families, detailing information about their children and up to 3 gifts each child would like to receive. (We have requested our families to limit gift items to $25 or less.) We solicit individuals, groups and organizations to become a SECRET SANTA by sponsoring one or more children. The sponsoring Secret Santa shops for at least 1 item from the child's wishlist, wraps it, and delivers it to our church. Shortly before Christmas, parents pick up the gifts, and on Christmas morning, these gifts are under the tree from Santa Claus. Please Sponsor a child this Christmas season.

    Hanukah - Festival of Lights

    Hannukah, Hanukah or Chanukah; no matter how you spell it, this holiday is also known as the Festival of Lights.

    Hannukah is celebrated around the world for eight days and nights, beginning on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and ending on the 2nd day of the Hebrew month of Tevet. This year, Hannukah begins on the evening of December 6th and ends on December 13th on the Roman calendar.


    Hannukah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees or Israelites over the Greek-Syrian ruler, Antiochus about 2200 years ago. At that time the Greeks were trying to impose their language, customs and religious practices upon the world, including the people of Israel. After almost seven years, a group of Jewish fighters known as the Maccabees overcame Antiochus' armies.

    The Jews returned to Jerusalem only to find that the Holy Temple had been desecrated by their enemies. After cleaning the Temple, the Jews went to light the Holy, Eternal Light or N'er Tamid and found only one jar of pure and sacred oil, enough to light the lamp for one day. It was an eight-day journey out and back to obtain additional oil. However, one jar of oil burned for eight days and eight nights and it was proclaimed a miracle.

    What's a Menorah?

    Each night during Hannukah, candles are placed in a Menorah, which is a special nine-branched candelabrum, also known in Hebrew as a Hanukkiyyah. The eight candles represent the eight days and nights of the Miracle. The Ninth candle, the Shamash or servant, is used to light the other candles. Each night an additional candle is placed in the Menorah from right to left, and then lit from left to right On the last night all eight candles plus the Shamash are lit. Prayers and blessings are recited in Hebrew each night before the lighting of the candles.

    What is a dreidle? What are some other Hannukah traditions?

    Families sing traditional songs, exchange gifts, and play dreidle.

    A dreidle, or sivion is a four-sided top that has a Hebrew letter on each side. Nun, Gimel, Hay, and Shin stand for each word of the Hebrew phase "A great miracle happened there." Each player takes a turn spinning the dreidle, and depending on which letter falls, that player either wins the whole kitty, half of it, none of it, or has to add to it a predetermined amount. Prizes are usually chocolate Hannukah Gelt (money) coins, or nuts.

    Families enjoy traditional Hannukah foods such as latkes(potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), or other foods which are fried in oil, to celebrate and commemorate the miracle of the Festival of Lights.

    KWANZAA, the African-American spiritual holiday was formulated, devised, developed and initiated by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga on December 26, 1966. The operational under pinnings are based on the cultural principles of a theory called Kawaida. The Kawaida theory premise is that social revolutionary change for Black America can be achieved by the act of revealing and disclosing individuals to their cultural heritage.

    During the early and middle sixties Dr. Karenga noted that many community based groups were functioning and utilizing a myriad of ideologies, plans, and social approaches to assist Black Americans to obtain social changes in this era of Civil Rights in America. The cultural social under pinnings of the Kawaida Theory gave conditions that would enhance the revolutionary social change for the masses of Black Americans. The first condition to be addressed was the major exploitation of Black America during the months of October, November, December or the Christmas Season. The second condition was that during this time in history, Black Americans did not have a holiday. Review of the major holidays celebrated by the American society would reveal that not one related to the growth and development or essence of Black Americans. The third condition was to which Dr. Maulana Karenga postulated a reassessment, reclaiming, recommitment, remembrance, retrieval, resumption, resurrection, and rejuvenation of those principles (Way of Life) utilized by Black Americans' ancestors. The principles (Way of Life) allowed them to endure slavery, racism, and oppressions during their sojourn in American.

    Dr. Maulana Karenga utilized the concept of Kwanzaa as the framework to address these major conditions of 1966 and to assist in the resolution of others. Introduction Kwanzaa is a spiritual, festive and joyous celebration of the oneness and goodness of life, which claims no ties with any religion.

    The focus of Kwanzaa is centered around the seven principles (Nguzo Saba) with particular emphasis on the unity of our Black families. It is a time for gathering of our families, and for a rededication to manifesting the principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba) as a way of life for Black Americans.

    Kwanzaa has definite principles, practices and symbols which are geared to the social and spiritual needs of African-Americans. The reinforcing gestures are designed to strengthen our collective self-concept as a people, honor our past, critically evaluate our present and commit ourselves to a fuller, more productive future.

    Kwanzaa is a way of life; not just a celebration. As a living social practice, it is a week of actual remembering, reassessing, recommitting, rewarding and rejoicing. For evaluation of ourselves and our history, we relate to our past, reassess our thoughts and practices, and recommit ourselves to the achievement of Black liberation and the betterment of life for all Black Americans.

    Finally, the concept of Kwanzaa, the African-American holiday, is to help Black Americans relate to the past in order to understand the present and deal with the future.

    This is on-line Kwanzaa Information Center is designed to provide you with vital information to help in your understanding of the concept of Kwanzaa.

    Whenever new information is presented to an individual or a group of people, the information must be accurate, clear and have a specific meaning for that particular individual or particular group. Therefore, the information should be presented in a specific format and should include certain factors. These factors are:

    1. FOCUS - The center of an activity or the area of attention.
    2. PURPOSE - The plan, intention or reason for an activity or event.
    3. SENSE OF DIRECTION - The way and manner in which the event will take form.
    4. GOALS - The things that will be achieved.
    FOCUS OF KWANZAA It is important to relate to the past in order to understand the present and deal with the future. A people will never look forward to posterity who never looked backward to their ancestors. PURPOSE OF KWANZAA To maintain a history. History is Knowledge, Identity and Power. SENSE OF DIRECTION To practice the principles in our lives that helped our ancestors to endure oppression, slavery and racism.

    Emphasize Unity of the Black family.

    GOALS OF KWANZAA To develop self and facilitate a positive Black self-esteem by exposing individuals to "KWANZAA", a culturally desirable pattern of principles, to help them live their lives and to encourage the highest level of positive Black self-esteem and spiritual development.

    To establish a culturally oriented "WAY OF LIFE." KWANZAA BOOKS FOR CHILDREN The following list is provided courtesy of United Brothers & United Sisters Communications Systems.

    1. "Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice" By Maulana Karenga
    2. "Lets Celebrate Kwanzaa: An activity Book for Young Readers" By Helen Davis-Thompson
    3. "The African American Celebration Of Kwanzaa" By Maulana Karenga
    4. "Kwanzaa an Everyday Resource and Instructional Guide" By David A. Anderson
    5. "Kwanzaa, An African American Celebration Of Culture and Cooking" By Eric Copage

    1. Kwanzaa Workbook
    2. A Methodology For Teaching The Culturally Particular African American Child
    THE SYMBOLS OF KWANZAA Definition of a Symbol - A symbol is an item or an object that already has a name and represents something significant. It is renamed to give significance to a new group of people or person. The Evergreen tree family are evergreens from January to October of each year, around the middle of October they become Christmas trees, thus representing a symbol of Christmas.

    The symbols of Kwanzaa serve as instructive and inspirational objects that represent and reinforce desirable principles, concepts and practices as reflective of both traditional and modern concepts which evolved out of the lives and struggles of African-American people.

    Primary Symbols of Kwanzaa

    1. MKEKA (M-kay-cah) - The Mkeka is a straw mat on which all the other items are placed. It is a traditional item and therefore symbolizes tradition as the foundation on which all else rests.

    2. KINARA (Kee-nah-rah) - The Kinara is a candle-holder which holds seven candles and represents the original stalk from which we all sprang. For it is traditionally said that the First-Born is like a stalk of corn which produces corn, which in turn becomes stalk, which reproduces in the same manner so that there is no ending to us.

    3. MSHUMAA (Mee-shoo-maah) - The seven candles represent the Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) on which the First-Born sat up our society in order that our people would get the maximum from it. They are Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

    4. MUHINDI (Moo-heen-dee) - The ear of corn represents the offspring or product (the children) of the stalk (the father of the house). It signifies the ability or potential of the offsprings, themselves, to become stalks (parents), and thus produce their offspring -- a process which goes on indefinitely, and insures the immortality of the Nation. To illustrate this, we use as many ears of corn as we have children which again signifies the number of potential stalks (parents). Every house has at least one ear of corn; for there is always the potential even if it has not yet been realized.

    5. KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA (Kee-coam-bay chah-oo-moe-jah)- The Unity Cup symbolizes the first principle of Kwanzaa. It is used to pour the libation for our ancestors; and each member of the immediate family or extended family drinks from it in a reinforcing gesture of honor, praise, collective work and commitment to continue the struggle began by our ancestors.

    6. ZAWADI (Sah-wah-dee) - The presents (gifts) represent 1) the fruits of the labor of the parents, and 2) the rewards of the seeds sown by the children. Parents must commit their children to goodness which to us is beauty. We must commit them to good acts, good thoughts, good grades, etc., for the coming year and reward them according to how well they live up to their commitments. Goodness, again, is beauty and beauty is that which promises happiness to the family and community. For all acts, thoughts and values are invalid if they do not in some way benefit the community.

    7. KARAMU - The feast symbolizes the high festive celebration that brings the community together to exchange and to give thanks to the Creator for their accomplishments during the year. It is held on the night of December 31 and includes food, drink, music, dance, conversation, laughter and ceremony.

    Secondary Symbols of Kwanzaa
    1. NGUZO SABA (En-GOO-zoh Sah-BAH)- Symbolizes the seven principles of Kwanzaa which were developed by Maulana Ron Karenga. The Nguzo Saba are social principles dealing with ways for us to relate to each other and rebuild our lives in our own images.

    2. BENDERA YA TAIFA - The flag of Black Nationalism symbolizes the struggle of Liberation. The Red represents the blood of our ancestors; Black is for the collective color of all Black people, and Green reminds us of the land, life and new ideas we must continue to strive to obtain.

    3. TAMBIKO - Symbolizes the libation by which honor is given in a special way to our ancestors and a call to carry out the struggle and the work they began. It clearly symbolizes the recognition of and respect for the contributions of those before us, our history and the models it offers us to emulate.

    4. HARAMBEE - Symbolizes a call to unity and collective work and struggle.

    5. HABARI GANI - Swahili term used when greeting others.

    6. KWAHERI - Swahili term used as an expression of parting with good wishes and an expectancy to meet again.
    Principles of Kwanzaa Definition of Principle - A principle is a rule or law that governs conduct in a given situation. The Nguzo Saba are the set of principles/values by which Black Americans must order their relations and live their lives, if they are to make decisions about their lives and begin to build a new world and a new people to develop it. As a product of tradition and reason of history, the Nguzo Saba responds to current needs which can be the method used by Blacks to solve the problems on every level which confronts us as a people. Thus, the Nguzo Saba are social and spiritual principles, dealing with ways for us to relate to each other and rebuild our lives in our own images.


    1. UMOJA (UNITY) (oo-MOE-jah) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

    2. KUJICHAGULIA (SELF DETERMINATION) (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah) - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

    3. UJIMA (COLLECTIVE WORK AND RESPONSIBILITY) (oo-JEE-mah) - To build and maintain our community together and to make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

    4. UJAMAA (COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS) (oo-JAH-mah) - To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit together from them.

    5. NIA (PURPOSE) (nee-AH) - To make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

    6. KUUMBA (CREATIVITY) (koo-OOM-bah) - To do always as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.

    7. IMANI (FAITH) (ee-MAH-nee) - To believe with all our hearts in our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

    Origin of the Flag of Pan-Africanism and/or Black Nationalism

    Red is for the Blood. Black is the Black People. Green is for the Land

    Red, Black and Green are the oldest national colors known to man. They are used as the flag of the Black Liberation Movement in America today, but actually go back to the Zinj Empires of ancient Africa, which existed thousands of years before Rome, Greece, France, England or America.

    The Red, or the blood, stands as the top of all things. We lost our land through blood; and we cannot gain it except through blood. We must redeem our lives through the blood. Without the shedding of blood there can be no redemption of this race. However, the bloodshed and sorrow will not last always. The Red significantly stands in our flag as a reminder of the truth of history, and that men must gain and keep their liberty, even at the risk of bloodshed.

    The Black is in the middle. The Black man in this hemisphere has yet to obtain land which is represented by the Green. The acquisition of land is the highest and noblest aspiration for the Black man on this continent, since without land there can be no freedom, justice, independence, or equality.

    The colors were resurrected by the Hon. Marcus Garvey, Father of African Nationalism, as the symbol of the struggling sons and daughters of Africa, wherever they may be. Since the 1950's, when the independence struggle began to reap fruit, the Red, Black and Green have been plainly adopted by Libya, Kenya and Afghanistan. Other African States have included the colors Black and Red, combined with yellow or white.

    The colors were established in 1920 as the banner of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and adopted as the symbol of Africans in America at the convention of the Negro People's of the World. It is a symbol of the devotion of all African people to the liberation of the African Continent, and the establishment of a Nation in Africa ruled by descendents of slaves from the Western World.

    In addition, with the formation of the Republic of News Africa, it has become the symbol of devotion for African people in America to establish an independent African nation on the North American Continent.

    Thus, the colors were not chosen at any limited convention of Black persons; but, have been, in centuries past, and are now the emblem of true Black hope and pride, as embodied in all theories of Pan-Africanism and Black Nationalism.



    SCHEDULE FOR KWANZAA CELEBRATION Kwanzaa is a family affair and seeks to reinforce the bonds between parents and children, and to teach parents and children new views and values that will aid them in self-consciousness and providing support and defense for our people. Therefore, Kwanzaa is the time when Black Americans get together to give thanks, and to enjoy the blessings of living and acting together as a family.

    1. The following schedule should be used in preparing your family to participate in the Kwanzaa celebration.

      • December 12 - Begin to schedule meetings with family members to assign tasks for the Kwanzaa Celebration.

      • December 19 - Gather and arrange Kwanzaa symbols and any other decorations. Arrange the symbols on a low table or on the floor.

        1. Spread the Mkeka (Straw Mat).

        2. Place the Kinara (Candle Holder) in the center of the Mkeka.

        3. Place the Muhindi (Ears of Corn) on either side of the Mkeka. One ear of corn for each child in the family.

        4. Creatively place the Zawadi (Gifts), Kikombe Cha Umoja (Unity Cup); Tambiko (Water and Soil), and a basket of Mazao fruit on the Mkeka.

        5. Hang up a Bendera Ya Taifa (Flag of the Black Nation). It should be facing the East.

        6. Place Mishumaa Saba (Seven Candles) in the Kinara. Remember the Mishumaa should be red, black and green. Use andy creative match you desire.

          Examples - Three Red; Three Green; One Black; Two Red; Two Green; Three Black

      • Begin using the greeting "Habari Gani" and the response "Nzuri Kwanzaa, Nguzo Saba". Note, the response changes on the first day of Kwanzaa to Umoja, on the second day to Kujichagulia, etc.

      • A week of fasting, from sunrise to sunset, to cleanse the body, discipline the mind and uplift the spirit is suggested.

    2. On the first day of Kwanzaa (December 26) the Mtume (leader or minister) calls the family together. When everyone is present, the Mtume greets them; Habari Gani, and the family responds Umoja. THus the Kwanzaa celebration has begun. THe celebration is conducted in the following order, substituting each principle for the response on its respective day.

      • A prayer is offered by a member of the family (all standing).

      • Harambee (Let's Pull Together) is a call for unity and collective work and struggle of the family.

        --Each member raises up the right arm with open hand and while pulling down, closes the hand into a fist.

        --Harmabee is done in sets of seven in honor and reinforcement of the Nguzo Saba.

      • The Kwanzaa Song can be used at this time.

      • The Mtume briefly talks about the concept of Kwanzaa, using the theme or focus of Kwanzaa as a sense of direction.

      • The Tambiko (Libation) is performed by an elder. The elder should pour the libation using juice or water from the Tambiko set up in honor of our ancestors.

      • Harambee Symbol.

      • Greeting should be done by the family member (preferably a youth) assigned the lighting of Mshumaa (candle).

      • Lighting Ceremony is performed by the Youth. The Youth should light the Mshumaa (candle) for the principle of the day (i.e. Umoja (Unity) on the first day of Kwanzaa). After the lighting, the principle of the day should be discussed by every member participating in the ceremony. The discussion should focus on each member's understanding of the principle and their commitment and responsibility to practice that principle for the betterment of self, family and Black people..

      • Harambee.

      • A story, song or an object that is reflective of the principle for the day (i.e. Umoja (Unity) - Black Frying Pan) and a Scripture reading related to the principle is essential in reinforcing the meaning of that principle.

      • Share Zawadi (Gifts). In Kwanzaa gifts are played down and spiritual and social rejuvenation is played up. Hand made gifts are strongly encouraged over commercial purchases. Items related to the Black heritage or items that have a special meaning that will help the person through the next year are strongly recommended. The gifts should be reflective of a commitment to education and the riches of our cultural heritage and a sign of the struggle for liberation for Black people. The gifts can be fruits shared each night by members. The gifts can be given to the children in one of two ways:

        1. One gift can be given each day to reinforce the principle for that day, or

        2. On December 31st. during the Karamu (Feast), all gifts can be given.

    3. Karamu (Feast) is held on the night of December 31st. and includes food, music, dance, etc.

      • Harambee.
      • Closing Prayer.

    4. The Kwanzaa Song can be repeated as often as is wished for elevation of the spirits.

      THE KWANZAA SONG Kwanzaa is a holiday

      Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa

      Is an African holiday

      Seven Principles

      Seven Candles

      Seven Black days for the African


    The Islamic year is based on the lunar cycle, consisting of twelve months of 29 or 30 days each, totaling 353 or 354 days. Each new month begins at the sighting of a new moon. Actual dates may differ by a day or two from the above dates. In many places, the moon-sighting is often determined in advance by astronomical calculations.

    Dates for upcoming Islamic holidays and observances Ramadan - January 21 - February 19, 1996 'Eid-ul-Fitr - February 20, 1996 / Shawwal 1 Hajj - April 19 - May 1, 1996 / Dhul-Hijjah 1-13, 1416 'Eid-ul-Adha - April 28, 1996 / Dhul-Hijjah 10, 1416 Islamic New Year - May 19, 1996 / Muhararam 1, 1417

    The Islamic year is based on the lunar cycle, consisting of twelve months of 29 or 30 days each, totaling 353 or 354 days. Each new month begins at the sighting of a new moon. Actual dates may differ by a day or two from the above dates. In many places, the moon-sighting is often determined in advance by astronomical calculations.

    Ramadan, the Month of Fasting
  • The Meaning of Ramadan

    Ramadan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. There are as many meanings of Ramadan as there are Muslims.

    The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur'an, giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds.

    As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.

  • Who Fasts in Ramadan?

    While voluntary fasting is recommended for Muslims, during Ramadan fasting becomes obligatory. Sick people, travelers, and women in certain conditions are exempted from the fast but must make it up as they are able. Perhaps fasting in Ramadan is the most widely practiced of all the Muslim forms of worship.

  • The Sighting of the Moon

    Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The much-anticipated start of the month is based on a combination of physical sightings of the moon and astronomical calculations. The practice varies from place to place, some places relying heavily on sighting reports and others totally on calculations. In the United States, most communities follow the decision of the Islamic Society of North America, which accepts bonafide sightings of the new moon anywhere in the United States as the start of the new month. The end of the month, marked by the celebration of 'Eid-ul-Fitr, is similarly determined.

  • From Dawn to Sunset

    The daily period of fasting starts at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. In between -- that is, during the daylight hours -- Muslims totally abstain from food, drink, smoking, and marital sex. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post-fast meal (iftar) after sunset.

    The Islamic lunar calendar, being 11 to 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, migrates throughout the seasons. Thus, since Ramadan begins on January 20 or 21 this year, next year it will begin on January 9 or 10. The entire cycle takes around 35 years. In this way, the length of the day, and thus the fasting period, varies in length from place to place over the years. Every Muslim, no matter where he or she lives, will see an average Ramadan day of the approximately 13.5 hours.

  • Devotion to God

    The last ten days of Ramadan are a time of special spiritual power as everyone tries to come closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet, known as the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr), is generally taken to be the 27th night of the month. The Qur'an states that this night is better than a thousand months. Therefore many Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.

    During the month, Muslims try to read as much of the Qur'an as they can. Most try to read the whole book at least once. Some spend part of their day listening to the recitation of the Qur'an in a mosque.

  • Food in Ramadan

    Since Ramadan is a special time, Muslims in many parts of the world prepare certain favorite foods during this month.

    It is a common practice for Muslims to break their fast at sunset with dates (iftar), following the custom of Prophet Muhammad. This is followed by the sunset prayer, which is followed by dinner. Since Ramadan emphasizes community aspects and since everyone eats dinner at the same time, Muslims often invite one another to share in the Ramadan evening meal.

    Some Muslims find that they eat less for dinner during Ramadan than at other times due to stomach contraction. However, as a rule, most Muslims experience little fatigue during the day since the body becomes used to the altered routine during the first week of Ramadan.

  • The Spirit of Ramadan

    Muslims use many phrases in various languages to congratulate one another for the completion of the obligation of fasting and the 'Eid-ul-Fitr festival (see below). Here is a sampling of them:

    "Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic

    "Atyab at-tihani bi-munasabat hulul shahru Ramadan al-Mubarak" (The most precious congratulations on the occasion of the coming of Ramadan) - Arabic

    "Elveda, ey Ramazan" (Farewell, O Ramadan) - Turkish

    "Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic

    "'Eid mubarak (A Blessed 'Eid)" - universal

    'Eid-ul-Fitr, the Festival of Fast-Breaking The celebration at the end of Ramadan is called 'Eid-ul-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking). It is a joyous occasion, similar to Christmas in its celebration but with strong religious significance. The giving of a special charity for this occasion is obligatory. Muslims dress in holiday attire, attend a special community prayer in the morning, and visit friends and relatives. Greetings of "'Eid mubarak," or "a blessed 'Eid" are exchanged. In some places, children are given gifts or money by their parents and relatives.

    The celebration of 'Eid-ul-Fitr lasts three days, although the main festivities occur on the first day. In Fort Collins, Muslims gather in a community center for prayer and a community breakfast. Students and workers of all ages take time off from school and work whenever possible. Muslims in the United States are trying to gain recognition of 'Eid-ul-Fitr, one of their two main festivals, as an official holiday.

    Hajj, the Pilgrimage to Makkah During the next week, Muslims from all over the world will converge on Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the Hajj or Islamic pilgrimage. Each year, roughly two million followers of the Islamic faith participate in the pilgrimage, which constitutes the world's largest international gathering.

    One of the five "pillars" or essential acts of worship in Islam, the Hajj is obligatory at least once in a Muslim's lifetime, if conditions permit. The purpose of the pilgrimage is the same for every pilgrim who makes the journey: the worship of God at the Sacred House in Mecca, the Kabah. According to the Qur'an, the sacred scripture of Islam, believed to have been revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad in the sixth century of the Christian era, the Kabah was built by the Prophet Abraham and his son, Ishmael, also a prophet, in ancient times. Abraham instituted the pilgrimage and established its rites around the Sacred House. Many centuries later, these rites were re-established by Muhammad.

    The most important day of the pilgrimage is the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah. On this Day of Arafat, the huge throng of pilgrims spends the afternoon at the vast Plain of Arafat, believed to be a prototype of the gathering place of the Last Judgment, praying for God's forgiveness and mercy. They then move on to the next station of the pilgrimage.

    The Hajj is a profound spiritual experience for Muslims, taking them back to the origin of their God- centered faith in the prophet Abraham. It is also a time of experiencing the brotherhood and equality of humanity. It was this experience that led Malcolm X to cast aside his racist views and embrace what he called the "oneness of Man. . . under one God."

    For more information on the Hajj, I suggest watching the fifty-minute film The Guests of God.

    'Eid-ul-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice The Festival of Sacrifice, 'Eid ul-Adha, immediately follows the Day of Arafat (see above). This festival is celebrated throughout the Muslim world as a commemoration of Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice everything for God, including the life of his son Ishmael. Because God spared Ishmael, substituting a sheep in his stead, Muslims commemorate this occasion by slaughtering an animal and distributing its meat among family, friends and the needy as a special act of charity for the occasion. Because of this, many poor Muslims are able to enjoy the unusual luxury of eating meat during the four days of the festival.

    The Muslim community of Fort Collins celebrates 'Eid ul-Adha with an early morning prayer service followed by a community breakfast. In keeping with the tradition of 'Eid, local Muslims will dress up in new or special clothes, visit friends and relatives, hold 'Eid gatherings or parties, and give gifts to their children.