I was raised in a fundamentalist church that believed in the seventh-day Sabbath, tambourines and neverending, four-nights-a-week services that lasted well into Arsenio Hall’s opening monologue. Apparently, God’s eternal kingdom specifically forbade rap music, brazen women who had premarital sex (if you were a man it wasn’t ok but it didn’t decrease your value) and Christmas cheer.
Even though I was lactose intolerant and preferred Dixie Crystal cane sugar, for some reason I really wanted to go to the Land of Milk and Honey, so I was all in, which meant that I proudly opted out. After all, Jesus was my homeboy. When my elementary school classes had our annual Christmas parties, I sat in the hallway and pitied the fools who were engaging in the idiotic pagan ritual of Saturnalia, much to Jesus’ chagrin.
So when people ask me what I did for Christmas growing up, I am confused. It’s not like we’re all born knowing that the 25th day of December is supposed to be the greatest day of the year. It is learned behavior. But I understand why they feel that way.
Even though most of my friends were heathens who believed Mary gave birth in a Bethlehem manger with no central air or heat, my entire neighborhood also celebrated Kwanzaa. Every year, the entire neighborhood would gather at Young & Young’s funeral home for seven nights in a row. All of the civic organizations in town would donate gifts, neighborhood ladies would bake cakes and cookies, and a local candy store would donate approximately 3 metric tons of candy for the kids.
I always assumed everyone celebrated Kwanzaa.
I would later turn into a Christmas celebrater in a story that involves Eartha Kitt, a bottle of Wild Turkey and an HBCU. Plus, when and if you ever fall in love and marry a heathen, you see that you can’t just not buy Christmas presents. You get in line and act like you know what the fuck is going on... for love.
But as a veteran of both holidays, I am uniquely prepared to compare the two holidays.
The Origin Story
Christmas: Christmas has one of the greatest superhero backstories of all time. In the year 0000, Joseph Christ took his pregnant wife, Mary Mother of Gawd, to the mall in Bethlehem because it was the nearest location of H&R Block and they had to pay their taxes. Now Joseph really loved Mary, which is why he believed her when she told him that she was a virgin but the Holy Ghost had gotten her pregnant.
Joe didn’t even ask for a DNA test because everyone knows the Holy Ghost doesn’t wear condoms. Plus, he knew they could claim Jesus as a dependent on their taxes, which was rare because the evil king Herod had outlawed the earned income credit.
During the trip, Mary went into labor but because it was the first Christmas Eve, all of the hotels were booked. They tried Travelocity and everything. Mary had second thoughts about marrying this broke-ass carpenter but she agreed to stay at a manger. They cashed their income tax check, bought a few things from Osh Kosh B’Gosh’s line of swaddling clothing, and that is where Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Kwanzaa: In 1966, a black man named Maulana Karenga invented a Pan-African holiday based on first fruits.
White people invented Christmas.
Plus, I never really bought Mary’s story.
Christmas: You receive gifts, sing carols and decorate with lights. But you also have to go to church and buy Christmas trees. Plus, I never really quite understood how to feel the “Christmas spirit.” I don’t even know what it is.
I have a sneaky suspicion that the Christmas Spirit is what got Mary pregnant.
Christmas also has Santa Claus, a white man who sneaks into homes and leaves gifts. But St. Nick takes the credit for the gifts your hardworking parents bought with their own money, which is just like a white man.
Kwanzaa: You give gifts and light a negro menorah. Every day has meaning and you are supposed to reflect on the Kwanzaa principles.
Kwanzaa Claus doesn’t sneak into homes so...
Wait. You’ve never heard of Kwanzaa Claus?
Legend has it that every night of Kwanzaa, a black man with a very nice beard shows up in black homes all over the world. But instead of bringing material items, he brings patience, resiliency and the ability to deal with white people for 365 more days. I don’t know where we would be without St. Niggalous (Not “Saint nigga.” He’s a real “street nigga.”)
Now St. Niggalous doesn’t bring presents, but he helps single mothers put them together in exchange for some of your mother’s cookies. (How do you think you got that bike? You know your mama ain’t got no socket wrench! And why do you think your mama is smiling so hard on Kwanzaa morning? It damn sure ain’t that $12 dollar bottle of perfume you bought her!)
Winner: The Kwanzaa principle will kick the shit out of the Christmas spirit. Kwanzaa is also less expensive and better for the environment because you don’t use as much electricity or tear down the North Pole rainforest. (That’s where Christmas trees come from, right?)
Plus, instead of abusing eight reindeer, Street Niggalous drives an ‘02 Cadillac STS with OnStar. He used to drive a sleigh pulled by reindeer but one year the reindeer all disappeared after Kwanzaa Claus had a cookout in the South Pole with venison burgers.
And Kwanzaa Claus pays all the black elves a living wage, which is why only one of them have ever left the South Pole (Kevin Hart).
Christmas: It’s hard to beat Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and or The Temptations’ “Silent Night.” But there are also some white Christmas songs that are boring as fuck. For instance, whoever wrote “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is a terrible lyricist. It’s literally one sentence over and over again. And it’s time that we admit that the Little Drummer Boy was a terrible drummer. He would never get on a band at an HBCU playing: “pa rum pa pum pum.” What the hell is that? It doesn’t slap at all.
I do, however, like one white Christmas song. Most people don’t know that the Quentin Tarrantino movie about slavery was named from the song about the noise a slave makes when he’s unchaining his shackles: “Django Bells”
Kwanzaa: Aside from “We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa,” there is only one other Kwanzaa carol: “Happy Kwanzaa” by Teddy Pendergrass.
Winner: This was a close one, but I have to give this one to Christmas by a nose, for one reason, as I wrote earlier:
20 years into their career, the group went into a recording booth with a carton of Salem 100’s cigarettes in the soft pack, a fifth of Martell and a liter of S-Curl activator (it was 1980, after all) and proceeded to record what would stand forever as the theme song for the Black Holiday Season. The Temptations’ “Silent Night” isn’t even a carol—it is a love song to Christmas. It is a sermon, a slow jam and a gospel hymn. It brings tears to the eyes of Jehovah Witnesses, and Hoteps play it at Kwanzaa celebrations.
Christmas: Every Christmas, people ask: “What do you get the person who has everything?” The answer is simple:
You have to fight through malls for Christmas gifts, which is annoying, especially on Black Friday. I’ve never understood why people get into fistfights over 50 percent off blenders and Nintendo games.
Kwanzaa: Kwanzaa gifts are not supposed to be expensive. They are supposed to be handmade and represent the Kwanzaa principles. While this sounds great in theory, I’d rather buy something from Amazon than spend my Christmas Eve making some bullshit with Elmer’s glue and construction paper that the recipient is gonna toss in the trash anyway.
Winner: As an adult, eight out of every ten gifts you receive are trash, which is why I’d rather receive seven gifts in a row. The odds are better.
And yes, I know what I just said about making gifts but I have actually found a loophole in the Kwanzaa rules. The International Law of Kwanzaa stipulates that Kwanzaa gifts should be handmade, but they don’t say whose hands.
That’s why I buy all my Kwanzaa gifts from Etsy.
Christmas: Christmas meals are delicious. I don’t have anything to say. I would also like to say “fuck you” to people who make jokes about fruitcake. What’s wrong with fruitcake? Fruitcake is delicious! First of all, it never dries out. And you get the recommended daily dose of vitamin C in every slice.*
Kwanzaa: Kwanza food is basically leftover Christmas food.
Winner: While Christmas food is delicious, I must point out one thing:
Christmas is the season when you have to consume white people’s food.
You don’t have to attend white barbecues, go to white Thanksgivings or visit the beach with Kyle and Lauren, but everyone has to go to the office Christmas party. That’s usually when the boss hands out bonuses, so you are probably going to have to pretend that you absolutely love Karen’s sweet potato coleslaw pie or wonder how cat hair got between your teeth.
White people don’t celebrate Kwanzaa.
*This may not be true.
So there you have it.
Kwanzaa is better than Christmas.
This does not mean that Christmas is not a great holiday but it doesn’t compare to the seven days of Kwanzaa or a real street Niggalous. Also, no one wears kente cloth on Christmas and the little drummer boy of Kwanzaa is named Doug E. Fresh.
So, if you don’t like Kwanzaa, you can kiss my pa rum pa pum pum.