Guest Blogger – Rebecca Lamar Ed. S., Manager of Higher Education Initiatives, The Pennsylvania Key
When I think about celebrating Kwanzaa, I often find myself remembering a time back in a preschool classroom as a seasoned teacher. In those years, I had hoped to celebrate a non-traditional December holiday with 10 children who needed exposure to the holidays beyond Christmas, Hannukah and the New Year. As a seasoned teacher, I knew my limitations, but I also felt a sense of pride and experience when it came to bringing in new ideas to the classroom. Thinking back to the early 2000s, being a teacher of color in a setting of children who did not look like me, I felt an unspoken duty to share more of my culture with them in the most creative way possible. Kwanzaa is the kind of holiday that brings community, families and children together. Each day has a different focus on a way of being and how to embody those characteristics in action. Now, as someone with two decades in the field of early childhood education, I recognize the power of presenting new cultures to children and having the ability to show up in your classroom in your authentic self.
December was always a time for great reflection. Thinking about how to elevate celebrations from around the world, I was always encouraged by the tiny little community filled with little minds, little hearts, and readiness to engage. Some activities we did in the classroom focused on the importance of food and celebrations. Art projects with corn and kitchen projects allowed children to connect with foods that they might have not tasted before. Bringing in African-inspired patterns and headgear looked delightful in dramatic play, and the art center was filled with brightly colored flags of countries not represented in the books we always read.
Personally, I celebrate Kwanzaa with my family as a way to focus on my gratitude toward them. Kwanzaa is an opportunity to say thank you to all the members of your family, immediate and extended, for all the love, care and connection that they’ve provided you throughout the year. In my practice of celebrating Kwanzaa, three days are held for self-reflection, one day is held for union, and three days are held to plan forward going into the next year. While I celebrate many other non-traditional holidays, Kwanzaa fills my heart and creative spirit with joy as many activities are associated with creating crafts and spending time together in the kitchen or at the table.
Whether in the classroom, or in your living room, there are so many great ways to connect to the idea of empowerment, gratitude, and unity. Below are some resources for educators and families who are curious about Kwanzaa: