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An inclusive look at the holiday season | Race and Culture

The holiday season includes recognition of a variety of winter celebrations taking place at this time of year.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The phrase “Happy Holidays” is not a politically correct way to say "Merry Christmas." 

“Happy Holidays” is actually a more inclusive way to acknowledge the many holidays taking place during the winter season.

Take Kwanzaa, for example. It's a seven-day celebration of African American culture starting the day after Christmas.

As Dr. Tchaka Muhammad with the Center for Spiritual Awareness explains, Kwanzaa is NOT a religious holiday. It’s simply a celebration based on seven principles: Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Uplifting your community economically, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.

“It’s a reaffirmation of your spirituality, your creativity, the success you had and the love,” said Dr. Muhammad.

Though Kwanzaa has African roots, it was created in 1966 by California professor Maulana Karenga during the Black Power Movement. The holiday is mainly celebrated in the United States with music, dance, food and the lighting of red, black and green candles.

“The black is for the people. Red is the blood of the people, and the green is the Earth,” said Muhammad.

From Dec. 16-24, Mexico celebrates Las Posadas, which means “The Inns” in Spanish. A version of Las Posadas is celebrated at La Familia Counseling Center in Sacramento.

Executive Director Rachel Rios says the holiday commemorates the biblical journey Joseph and Mary made while looking for safe refuge to give birth to baby Jesus.

“A traditional Posada is kind of like a pilgrimage where families and friends go to each other's homes for several days throughout the Christmas holidays asking for entry,” said Rios.

Once inside the home or place of congregation, a celebration begins. At a traditional Posada there usually is food, beverages, a piñata and dancing.  

“It is somewhat of a religious celebration. Some people dress up and the couple that is dressed up like Mary and Joseph will come in at the front asking for entry into the home. Then, there is a song they sing,” said Rios.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated around the same time as Christmas. Only recently did major department stores start offering lighting displays and elaborate decorations.

Rabbi Mona Alfi of the Sacramento B’nai Israel congregation is pleased to see Hanukkah is getting more exposure after a long history of being overlooked and ignored. The eight-day celebration, which is also known as “The Festival of Lights,” involves lighting candles in commemoration of the rededication of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. That followed the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian-Greek army.

“It literally makes me happy every year to go into Target and to see the displays that they have and the options that they have for us, and you’ll hear a buzz among everybody from the kids to the older members of the congregation,” said Rabbi Alfi.

The phrase "Happy Holidays" is an inclusive way to acknowledge the many holidays taking place during the winter season. Next time you greet someone this time of year, consider asking them how they will be celebrating. It might just give you a new perspective on this festive time of year.

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