With age comes experience, wisdom, and awareness of our place in the world, as well as exposing some of the falsehoods we were taught as children. The myths of Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost were exploded when we were still young enough to shrug them off as imagination boosters. As we became adults though, we became aware of other blatant examples of the wool being pulled over our eyes. I’m talking about Christmas and Easter, as celebrated by Black folks. Uh oh.
The traditions imprinted upon us hold us hostage, much more so than the actual holidays. Lemme run down a few examples of how we celebrate holidays, and how the imprint of Black culture is evident in how we celebrate most American holidays. I’ll come back to Easter and Christmas towards the end, alright?
Mother’s Day is the day we pay homage to Black mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmas. It probably doesn’t carry as much weight in other cultures, but in ours, the celebration of Black women goes much, much deeper. From the beginning of slavery in America, the reality of a so-called traditional family has been somewhat of an anomaly. Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, and the Civil Rights movement, events and situations which should have destroyed us a people, were not allowed to. Why? Because Black women kept us moving forward together, most often without the help of Black men due to lynching, imprisonment, etc. This is why Walgreen’s dedicates two extra aisles to Mother’s Day cards. Mother’s Day is a celebration about Mama and Grandma and ‘em.
Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day are just barbecues, fireworks, and days off of work. Memorial Day opens summer, the Fourth celebrates summer, and Labor Day ends summer. That’s it as far as I’m concerned. There’s no cultural attachment, and our false shouts of patriotism ring kind of hollow in a country where we’re still waiting for economic and social equality. It’s best to just skip to Thanksgiving. Lol.
Chitterlings, ham, a huge cooked bird, candied yams, monkey bread, baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens with slices of tomato and slivers of onions, string beans and white potatoes, sweet potato pies (NEVER PUMPKIN!), and a plethora of other mouthwatering dishes (nothing with the word “casserole”), to remind us to be thankful we are still here, still breathing, and still moving forward. Who cooked all of the food or started each family’s Thanksgiving tradition? Yup, Grandma and them.
Which leads me to Christmas and Easter, two Christian holidays grafted on to pagan holidays celebrating the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Yeah, it’s true. The Bible gives the time of year of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and um, nah, the dates don’t match. Funny, but as “woke” as we are, I bet none of us would have the nerve, gall, or audacity to speak out our newfound knowledge to Grandma and them. Nope. Because our traditions are based on those few times a year when the family gathers for a celebration. I wouldn’t dare denigrate our traditions. Not happening.
My family gathers on Christmas Eve, where we reminisce, catch up with each other, sing ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas,’ and toast to another year of being alive. On Easter, we gather to celebrate the renewal of hope, the coming of a new lease on life, and the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The kids with their new clothes, the overfilled churches, the dinners, and everything else, are part of our Black traditions of celebrating us. Yes, us. The traditions established by Grandma and them will keep on going through the generations, just as they kept us going. Why do I have a sudden taste for peach cobbler?
Marlon S. Hayes is a writer, novelist, poet, author, and blogger who is aware that he is the embodiment of his ancestors’ wildest daydreams and acts accordingly. He can be followed at marlonhayes.wixsite.com/author, Marlon’s Writings on Facebook, and his books are available on Amazon.