Families discuss their Christmas celebrations

caines | 12/20/2012, 4:30 a.m.

Christmas. Some describe it as the celebration of Jesus Christs birth. Others believe that the holiday has become so commercialized that Christ has been taken out of it. Some dont celebrate it at all; they celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other holidays. Regardless of how one may feel about Christmas, almost all can agree that the holiday season is a time to share with family and loved ones. Four local families of different ethnic backgrounds but all of African descent share their traditions and how they recognize the holidays.

Nigerian and American celebration

Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro, who is from West Africa, remembers celebrating Christmas back in his hometown of Edo, Nigeria. Its a big thing to get new clothing, he said. Most of the kids anticipate getting new clothing because thats what they wear on Christmas day. Also on Christmas day in Nigeria, there is a big feast prepared. The food of the meal includes an African staple called Jollof rice and goat or beef. Presently, Ighodaro celebrates Christmas in Miami with his immediate family: his wife Shannon, senior consultant of Oracle Consulting Group who is Bahamian; and his 6-year-old twin daughters, Esosa and Edia. Ighodaro, a minister at Mount Zion AME church, said he and his family recognize the birth of Christ by attending church and praying together on Christmas day. His family celebrates the holiday like most typical American families, according to Ighodaro. He said he doesnt think that there is any difference between his children and Nigerian children when they think of Christmas. Kids everywhere like the material things and look forward to that more than celebrating the birth of Christ, he said. My kids are preparing to be a part of the Christmas play for the first time, so theyre not totally lost on the idea of what it means to celebrate Christmas.

From America to the Bahamas

On Christmas day this year, Langston Longley, 62, one of the leaders of the Junkanoo group and a realtor associate in Miami, and his wife, Lula, a retired teacher, who are Bahamian American, will start off Christmas day like most Americans, but it will end differently. The first thing they will do is pray as a family with their children Shayne, 42, LaShawn, 36, and Langston Dewayne, 30 and grandchildren, open gifts, then eat dinner. But after dinner, they will take a plane to the Bahamas to see the Junkanoo Christmas celebration. It begins at 1 a.m. and it ends at 11 a.m. on Dec. 26. So basically, youre up for two days without sleep, Lula said. But they both would agree that it is all worth it. Theres no substitute for the feeling, Longley said. Nothing else gives you the feeling of being in the mix of a Junkanoo rush because it goes back to Africa our roots, our heritage. The beating of the drum sort of coincides with the beating of the heart. Its very infectious.

Embracing African roots

Dr. Caleb Davis, 78, CEO of Helen B. Bentley Family Health Center, and his wife Nana Yaa Densua Davis, 65, executive director of The Daughters of Serwaa Family Institute, are a Kwanzaa-focused family, but they recognize Christmas, and on that day they pray together and celebrate the birth of Christ. It is a quiet time for them, according to Davis. But for their Kwanzaa celebration, the Daviss usually invite about 15- 20 friends and family members to their home, but this year they will celebrate at a friends home. Their adult children live in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York, Miami, and West Palm Beach, sometimes they visit for the holidays and other times they celebrate at home with their own families. The Daviss both enjoy the focus on the principles and the libation rituals. Yaa Densua, said she doesnt know if she can pick one principle as the most important because they are all equally important to her. But Davis said his favorite principle is Nia, which means purpose. The purpose principle incorporates all of the other principles, according to Davis. I think its a wonderful celebration that does more than just highlight seven days during this time of the year, Nana Yaa Densua said. These principles you can use 365 days a year.

Christmas as a Muslim

Faisal Phillip Tavernier, 41, who is Haitian American and also Muslim, says his immediate family celebrates Kwanzaa, but they also acknowledge Christmas. He enjoys the fact that the holiday emphasizes on family time. His immediate family include: his wife Angel, 41, and six children: Ahminah, 18, Khair, 12, Inaia, 10, Mansa, 6, and Malaak, 3 and his unborn child. The Tavernier family spends the Christmas season at their family farm in Avon Park with his father, his brother, his in-laws and other family members. But Tavernier also dislikes many things about Christmas. I hate the fact that this holiday is rooted in commercialism, he said. Its supposed to be about Christ, but weve come to find out that Christ wasnt born at that time and that theyve even taken the Christ out of Christmas and you just see Xmas. Tavernier said he loves the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Its not about replacing Christmas, he said. Its about living those seven principles that are so critical in our community. By Malika A. Wrightmwright@miamitimesonline.com