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Asbury United Methodist Church hosts Kwanzaa

December 28, 1999

Kwanzaa celebrationBy MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




A group of local children and adults observed the unique celebration of Kwanzaa Tuesday afternoon.

cont. from front page

The seven days of Kwanzaa began the day after Christmas across the country and in Hagerstown. Only the third day - Ujima - was held in a public place locally this year.

"This is the fourth year we've had some Kwanzaa activities at Asbury United Methodist Church," said Debbie Shrader, church member and Kwanzaa instructor for community children.

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Kwanzaa, the Swahili word for first, is a celebration created in the mid-1960s following the devastating riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles.

The celebration was conceived as a way of instilling unity and a sense of pride in people of African heritage.

Tuesday afternoon, the children spent time learning about collective work and responsibility, or working together.

"We are going to make an African flag out of construction paper," Shrader said. "And we will light the candle for Ujima."

It was a festive occasion, a time spent with family and friends.

"The lighting of the unity candle marks the first night of Kwanzaa on Dec. 26," Shrader said.

The theme of unity is characterized by the call "Harambee," which in Swahili means "Let's pull together."

Shrader said she will continue to have Kwanzaa events in her home through the week of celebrations.

Traditionally, the second day's theme is self-determination.

Additional themes are cooperative economics and purpose, creativity and faith.

Each evening, one candle is lighted in a seven-candle display. A black candle in the center is lighted first to represent unity. Candles of red and green are lighted from left to right as the celebrations progress, Shrader said.

While the traditional colors are red and green, all bright colors can be used for the holiday.

Shrader sees Kwanzaa as a way to get children to think positively.

She teaches life skills and self-esteem to the youngsters throughout the year, and said Kwanzaa fits right in.

The celebration includes singing and exchange of handmade gifts.

Last year, Sunday services after Christmas at Asbury dealt with Kwanzaa. Each child received a Kwanzaa figure to keep.

The scope and popularity of Kwanzaa has been growing in the community and in the country, Shrader said.

If she has anything to do with it, Kwanzaa will someday be a traditional celebration, she said.

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