Sunday, December 26, 2010

Comments on USA Traditional Holidays and Akan Festivals

Re: Traditional Holidays

In Ghana, there are several clans and sub clans, families with various
rituals that are celebrated all around the country. With the influx
of Islam, Christianity and believe it or not, Rastafarian
spirituality, there has been an inculcation of various holidays that
were not typically home grown in Ghana.

Also, the predominate religions are Christianity and Islam, so along
with these influences comes the various holidays that are celebrated
by these two religions. More and more the "fetish" rituals are moving
into the background, primarily because the prevalent religions of
Christianity and Islam frown upon the rituals, practices, talismans,
etc. of the native people.

Many Ghanaians would be found doing all or at least two of them. That
is, you may find a "Fetish" priest, going to church on Sunday. The
idea is that if it works then why not incorporate it into the daily
routine. So, upon visiting Ghana, you will find various expressions
of these influences from holidays, to names, to churches and mosques.

It is curious to many Ghanaians that American born people would be
that interested in the traditional spiritual culture of the Akan
people. While they do find some pride in our attempt to learn their
way of life, they also wonder what would "possess" us to come from
"our great world" to do something that is mostly considered primitive
and outdated.

I am sure you all know that Kwanzaa is not an African holiday, while
it does contain the Kiswahili terms and definitions. And in some
respects, if you are not aware of this, and you present the concepts
to a native African, from any part of the continent, you may get a
puzzled look. Kwanzaa was designed for the African American here in
this country. We certainly need to embrace the seven prinicples or
Nguso Saaba, wholeheartedly. But these principles are part and parcel
of the every day life of most native born Africans, therefore, no real
need for a holiday celebration of these principles.

Throughout Ghana, you will see many different celebrations, often
known as festivals. There are also several ethnic groups with the
Akan being the largest group. The Akan include the Akuapem, the
Fante, the Asante, the Ga, the Ewe and so on. The Asante is the
largest sub group of the larger group, Akan.

One thing that is somewhat consistent is the festival called,
Akwasidae (Holy Sunday), that is celebrated every six weeks. But
there are many many others, i.e., the Yam festivals, the Grand Durbur,
along with weddings, funerals, births and puberty rites being treated
as great holidays.

Depending on the geographic location of a particular people there may
also be festivals to acknowledge the changes in the season, nature,
national heroes, etc.

On the other hand, do not be surprised to see the average Ghanaian
participating in Christmas and New Years. Typically, these holidays
tend to fall around the time of the year when the Ghanaian is involved
in a "tribal ritual" anyway. Therefore the inclusion of these two
holidays is quite prevalent.

For those holidays that have nothing to do with religion, i.e.,
Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Halloween, etc., you would find little
or no evidence of these practices among the Akan.

The Akan are a proud people. Whatever will make them stand on higher
ground, higher in social status and higher in economic conditions,
they are apt to explore its relevance and then consequently add it to
their list of days to celebrate. Drumming, dancing, prayers and
fasting are some of the best known ways that you would see these
people celebrating these events.

Additionally, they would also celebrate their own indigenous national
holidays, i.e., liberation day, Kwame Nkruma's birthday, or any such
event that is held in high esteem by the nation as a whole. The
Ghanaian person in relations to his/her culture is not much different
than any other person in relation to their culture. What is proven as
significant or important to the community as a whole would be embraced
and celebrated in some way.

As part of the Adade Kofi Bosomfie Sankofa, you are able to observe
whatever US holidays you so desire. Being born into this society, we
have all been exposed to them, and many of us use these holidays as an
opportunity to gather with our extended family members.

On a personal level, I strongly encourage everyone to seek knowledge
and understanding about the holidays and determine if they are
appropriate for your spiritual development. Because the Shrine work
we do, does not overtly include Christianity or Islam, it does not
condemn it either. That being said, I personally, try to stay away
from as many of these holidays as I can, because of my own research
study and exploration. But if any one feels that they must be
involved with them, there is no taboo saying that you should not.
Keep your eyes open for knowledge and information and understanding
concerning these practices, find a way to integrate it into your
spiritual journey and move on from there.

Quite frankly, we are the descendants of our Ancestors, and with that,
our Ancestors did observe these Holidays in many cases. In
acknowledging our Ancestors we can make a special effort to give them
homage on these holidays; particularly Christmas, and New Years.