• Cultural Calendar
The Rich, Vibrant Cultural Holiday Celebrations of Nochebuena and Kwanzaa

The winter holiday season is filled with a rich variety of celebrations, from Hanukkah and Christmas, to the Nochebuena celebration of those with Latin roots, to Kwanzaa, for those of African-American descent. 

For Latinx people as well as those in the Philippines, the birth of Christ isn't celebrated on December 25, but on December 24, the night before known as "Nochebuena" (meaning "good night"), when a feast of traditional dishes is served, followed by dancing and celebration, the opening of gifts, and the singing of Christmas carols called Vicllancicos. Families may also attend a late-night church service or mass known as "La Misa del Gallo," or "The Rooster's Mass." Followed in many cases by still more parties and celebrations! 

Meanwhile, Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday celebration of life, takes place from December 26 to January 1. Named for the KiSwahili (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) word meaning "first," Kwanzaa was inspired by the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," which means "first fruits." Taking place over seven nights, on each night of Kwanzaa, families gather together, the unity cup is poured with libations honoring the ancestors, and one of the seven candles on the Kinara (a candleholder) is lit. The candles are reminders of ancestral origins back in 55 African countries, as well as of the seven principles of Nguzo Saba that are intrinsic to African culture -- unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. With the lighting of each candle, each principle is discussed in turn by the family, and gifts are exchanged. On December 31, a feast is shared that frequently includes cuisine from across African countries. 

All of these holidays share a common observance of peace, joy and culture. Which do you celebrate?


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