Happy Cul-du-Sac: A personal deconstruction of North American holidays.

I killed Christmas over a decade ago. I wrote a piece called Xmas. It detailed my knowing surrounding the holiday practically invented by Coca Cola. I talked about old west Christmases where they got drunk and shot up the town like they did on the 4th of July. I talked about how gross consumerism topped any religious element of the holiday as I questioned the validity of the religious overtones of the day. Had the piece been more recent it would have noted how North American Holidays have become more packaged over the course of my life until Valentine’s Day and Halloween are no longer for children alone and are huge money generators in a consumer driven economy. The reasons for the murdering of Xmas are clearly still present. As the economy threatens to cave in on itself on the way to America becoming a third world country it seems a sharp lesson in learned behavior and being complicit in ones own duping. Yet there is an evergreen tree in my living room. It smells of pine and peppermint and reminds me of my beloved grandmother. Who taught me many things while nurturing in me the gift of being able to create what I need.I never published the article. I have thought about it the last few years as I have observed my love/hate relationship with holidays. In short it would seem unlikely I would indulge in rituals that commemorate events I am at odd with or disbelieve. Maybe not as strange as it seems in a country where teachers teach things they do not believe, as preachers preach things they do not accept, while the law fails us all. This dressing of the tree and buying of gifts has been a spot for me to examine the alignment of walk and talk. It has taken some time but I think I have a grasp on the very complicated relationship I have forged with American holidays.Don’t be confused by the tree. I don’t celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, or Easter. I do believe in the New Year. I like how it involves reflection, resolutions and comes with a clean slate like the turning of a page. My birthday is January 4th so the Year for me personally really begins then. This is all very personal. But I don’t think I am alone in the generality of repurposing American Holidays by North American Africans.Its true ignorance can be blissful. As a child I did what the older people around me instructed me to do. I practiced the rituals I was taught. My first acting experience was in a Christmas pageant at my Grandmothers church. I learned a beautiful story. I love stories. My love for them has grown over the years as has my scholarship. I have found many beautiful stories. Some much older than others. Some that have shaped what I have come to believe. All people have tales of origin, these founding myths guide cultures as they evolve. They hold cultures through interruption, oppression, and evolution. I am a North American African. I am from a culture interrupted, transplanted, and evolving. I am of a new tribe. My tribe must have its founding myths.Over the years I have evaded questions on religion and personal beliefs when interviewed . Perhaps because I was making them up as I went, learning, relearning and unlearning as I practiced, rejecting even as I learned, and creating where the path was bare. With age hopefully comes wisdom or at the very least knowledge of self. I have come to understand some things about my patchwork myth system that influence my personal beliefs and the rituals that convey these beliefs.I am from a land of many Gods. I believe in wind and ocean. How can I not. They are sacred to me. The ocean was the road the wind drove the ship. I believe in a most high. Someone strung the stars and watches over me. Oludumare. I am a stranger in a strange land hiding in their midst like Ifa concealed in Catholic Saints. Santeria. I have been instructed to remember. I am the child that does not forget. I dream of doors of no return. Ancestors have always talked to me since before I understood who they were. My locked hair signals I remember. I am of a child of a different drum.As such the 4th of July holds little significance for me. Albeit instructive of what one should do in cases where the government becomes too oppressive to bear. It like the wars waging around the world remind me of where I sit and with whom I break bread. I am an American by default. Still un-naturalized after an act of aggression that left my ancestors captive. My celebration of the 4th of July would seem moronic, as would my celebration of Thanksgiving. I identify with the indigenous. It used to drive my mother crazy, it was impossible for me to watch Tarzan, or Cowboys and Indians both wildly popular in my childhood. The movies left me in angry tears and my mother frustrated with my inability to accept that I would never see an American movie in which the Indians or the Africans won. The standard question at my “Blessings are Due” table is, “Why don’t the indigenous celebrate Thanksgiving?” It is a teaching point from which we

Source: Happy Cul-du-Sac: A personal deconstruction of North American holidays.

About Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD

I create; therefore I am.
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