December in Minneapolis Is An Interfaith Celebration

December 1, 2000

Source: Star Tribune

On December 1, 2000, the Star Tribune reported that "Christmas is so big that at times it's hard to see around it. With effort, though, it's possible to glimpse a wealth of activity beyond the boom and bustle of real and virtual card-sending, gift-shopping and feast-planning. Hundreds of thousands of people in the Twin Cities area do not celebrate Christmas. They revel instead in the joys of such observances as Hanukkah, Eid ul-Fitr, Kwanzaa and Hmong New Year. Corresponding events are frequently open to the public, and all the organizers we spoke with welcome the widest possible community participation. Though distinct, these holidays and Christmas resonate to some of the same themes: warmth, family closeness, lights, feasting and giving. Now's a great time to duck the malls (however briefly) and open arms wide to all that December holds out to us. As Minnesota's nonwhite, non-Christian population grows rapidly, many area institutions continue to make it a 'White Christmas.'...'A Taste of Many Cultures' (Dec. 14 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center, 301 19th Av. S., Mpls. 952-881-6090) is the Minnesota Cultural Diversity Center's way of celebrating the metro area's cultural richness, with its wide variety of languages, customs, foods and religious and social observances. Area restaurants _ Da Afghan (Afghan, Middle Eastern and south Asia), El Meson (Chicano, Latino), Precious Concession (African) and Sawatdee (Thai) _ will offer up the taste. The culture will come in many forms, including displays of work by African-American, Chinese, Moroccan, Jewish, Ecuadorian, Chicano-Latino, Hispanic, Latino and Somalian artists. Music and dance will be performed by Ragamala Music and Dance Theatre, Cornbread Harris, the Armenian Dance Ensemble and Norwegian fiddler Karen Solgard.

Since at least 1990, Asians have been Minnesota's largest immigrant group. The majority of those are Hmong, said Cha Ge Yang, president of Hmong-American New Year, Inc. He estimates that the 2000 census will show more Hmong living in Minnesota than in any other state. Hmong New Year, celebrated by Hmong people in Laos, China, Vietnam, Burma and Minnesota, among other places, marks the end of the harvest season with family reunions, feasting, courting, games and fun. Here as elsewhere, the new year is the main gathering time for the Hmong community. On the heels of Minnesota Hmong New Year, celebrated last weekend at RiverCentre in St. Paul, a Hmong-American New Year fete will draw about 30,000 people to the Metrodome next weekend (Dec. 9-10, 612-588-3488) for food, sports and fun...Yang was emphatic about one thing: 'We would like to invite everyone to participate in this New Year, not just Hmong. That's why we call it Hmong-American.'

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the successful rebellion of Mattathias and his five sons, the Maccabees, over Syrian forces in the 2nd century B.C. 'Some Jewish people are fond of calling Hanukkah 'the December Dilemma,' ' said Jeff Schachtman, executive director of the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center, voicing the pressure many American Jews feel trying to keep pace with the Christmas festivities and consumerism going on around them. 'It [Hanukkah] is, after all, a relatively minor holiday celebrating, of all things, a military victory.'

Kwanzaa was established in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga to help unify the black community to bring about social change. Celebrated Dec. 26-Jan. 1, it emphasizes oneness and goodness among all people. The holiday honors black Americans' African roots and stresses African music, food and spirituality.
The Sabathani Community Center will host this year's Kwanzaa Bazaar, a free event benefiting the We Win Institute, serving at-risk youth. The festival will feature performances by children from nine Minneapolis schools, representing many ethnic and religious groups.

People of Hispanic descent make up the fastest-growing minority group in America, and about 1 in 10 Twin Citians are of Hispanic origins...The doors are open to all at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in St. Paul (at 401 Concord St., St. Paul. 651-228-0506) where holiday celebrations are expected to draw hundreds of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Church staff member Tito Ortiz says that people from all cultures will appreciate the church's all-night vigil Dec. 11 for the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas. 'At 6 a.m. on the 12th, we'll hold a morning serenade with singers and mariachi musicians, and in the evening we will have a mass,' Ortiz said. At 10 p.m. on Dec. 24, the church will commemorate Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem with a candlelight procession known as Posadas. 'We would like everyone to feel welcome,' he said. Saturday, a fundraiser called 'Noche de Estrellas' (Night of Stars) will benefit El Fondo de Nuestra Comunidad, a community project of the St. Paul Foundation's Diversity Endowment Funds. The festivities at Como Lake Pavilion will begin with a reception and art show, followed by dinner and dancing to the Kiko Rangel Latin band (651-224-5463).

Most of the Twin Cities' Muslims are observing Ramadan, a monthlong commemoration of the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book, being sent down from heaven. Muslims fast during daylight hours and concentrate on their faith, spending as little time as possible on the concerns of everyday life. The end of the fast is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Eid ul-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged, and friends and family gather to pray...Makram El-Amin, who leads the Masjid An-Nur (Mosque of Light) in Minneapolis, said the Eid would be celebrated at RiverCentre on Dec. 26 or 27, depending on the sighting of the new moon. For more information about Ramadan or Eid ul Fitr, call the Islamic Center of Minnesota at 763-571-5604. During the Eid, morning prayers are followed by socializing and a lot of - you guessed it - eating."