This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, December 25, 1996

December 25, 1996 - Kwanzaa

There comes a time in the life of every new family when it has to make some decisions: which holidays matter, and where and how they'll be spent.

After the birth of our first child, we made one trip to my wife's family, and one trip to my family for Christmas. Then, together, we decided that from now on we'd spend Christmas at our own house. My wife was adamant that we also pick a special breakfast.

It worked. Until that moment, we were adjuncts to other people's families. After that moment, we were our own family.

Back in 1966, Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a college professor, thought that the establishment of a special holiday would help African-Americans make their families stronger. After studying the rituals of many African peoples, he invented a new holiday, incorporating ideas from many different harvest traditions.

He called it "Kwanzaa," based on the Kiswahili word meaning "the first fruits of the harvest." (Kiswahili is an East African language -- it is non-tribal and spoken by a large portion of the African population. It's also easy to pronounce: the vowels are like those in Spanish, and the consonants are very like English.)

The idea of Kwanzaa spread. Now, thirty years later, it has become one of many Christmas traditions around the world.

Kwanzaa is based on seven principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Juumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). Over the 7 day celebration (beginning December 26), each of these principles is highlighted. There is a ritual that involves the lighting of candles, the chanting of certain phrases, and personal reflection on the meaning of each principle to that person.

The purpose of Kwanzaa, ultimately, is to maintain a history: to identify a body of beliefs and memories, and to unite families in their ritual observance.

I'm pleased to report that Mollie Badger, a Douglas County school teacher, has volunteered to do two very special Kwanzaa storytelling sessions for us this year. (Her grandchildren are in town, and she wanted not only to celebrate the holiday with them, but share the experience with others.)

On Thursday, January 2, Mrs. Badger will perform at our 10 a.m. storytime at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. On Friday, January 3, she will perform at our 9:30 a.m. storytime.

Mrs. Badger will also provide some light refreshments. I encourage all those with children from pre-school through 5th grade to stop by. You'll be glad you did.

I'd also like to report our library hours over the changing of the year. We will close at 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and remain closed on January 1, 1997.

The year 1997 is just 3 years from the millenium. I can remember adding up the years as a kid and trying to imagine what life would be like when I had reached such an incomprehensible age. Now that it’s in sight, I find the prospect even stranger.

Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year from all of us at the library.

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