Originally created 11/30/97

More holidays than Christmas draw attention



Christmas gets most of the marketing attention around this time of year, but two other year-end holidays are not being totally ignored.

The U.S. Postal Service is one merchant that has recognized the popularity of Hanukkah, the festival of lights celebrated by Jewish people, and Kwanzaa, a cultural celebration of black Americans.

Hanukkah, which starts at sundown Dec. 23, is a religious celebration that marks an eight-day miracle with lamp oil in the Jewish temple after a war victory. The name of the holiday means rededication, which is what Jews are expected to do during the eight-day celebration.

Kwanzaa, which starts Dec. 26, is a seven-day festival that uplifts African-American heritage by highlighting seven principles linked to community and personal well-being.

The Postal Service began a holiday celebration stamp series in October 1996 by issuing a Hanukkah stamp and continued the series with the Kwanzaa stamp issued this fall. Besides the Kwanzaa stamp, the Postal Service has issued greeting cards, a framed enlarged stamp and books on Kwanzaa, which is not a religious holiday. The books were written by black authors.

The Kwanzaa stamps are selling better in certain postal offices, said Carol Klein, spokeswoman for the Postal Service in Augusta.

According to post office branch managers, the 10,000 stamps ordered by the Peach Orchard Road branch are half sold; the 4,000 ordered by the main branch on Eighth Street are three-quarters sold; and the 4,000 ordered by the Martinez branch are selling at an average pace.

Postal branches that have Hanukkah stamps from last year are selling them at an average pace, the branch managers said.

While the Postal Service issued the Kwanzaa stamp with the blessings of the celebration's creator, Maulana Karenga, the stamp has sparked protests from one national group that says the marketing is "an assault on the preservation of the cultural integrity" of the holiday.

The National Leadership Council of Elders has called for the Postal Service to stop marketing the products.

Augusta postal operations haven't received orders to stop selling the products, nor has the district office in Macon, Ms. Klein said.

Sala Adenike, co-owner of AMBASA Gift Shop on Broad Street, said she has mixed emotions about the stamp and other Kwanzaa merchandise from the Postal Service.

"It looks beautiful," she said, noting that a black artist designed the stamp. But "the post office could have been a little more sensitive in discussing it with the well-known people who celebrate Kwanzaa," she said.

Even though the Postal Service sought out the holiday's creator and others before issuing the stamp, the celebration has grown since its inception in 1966, Ms. Adenike said. Now, 15 million people nationwide celebrate the holiday, she said.

"We're trying to teach our people to keep our dollars more family-oriented, in our own community," she said. The Postal Service appears to be taking money from the black community, she said.

Ms. Adenike is a black merchant who sells materials to help celebrate Kwanzaa, which means first fruits in Swahili. She sells the seven-part candle holder, called a kinara; red, black and green candles; a straw mat called the mkeka, and other materials.

In Augusta, material for Hanukkah, such as the menorah, a nine-part candelabrum, generally are obtained from synagogues.

National greeting card companies such as Hallmark and American Greetings recognize that consumers might want to mark the two holidays. Hallmark provides greeting cards from the lighthearted to the serious for Hanukkah. Lynn's Hallmark and Carlton Cards in Augusta Mall have card displays.

"We've got more than we used to have," one Lynn's clerk said.

One greeting card includes "Happy Hanukkah" and "Merry Christmas" on the cover, then acknowledges that the recipient celebrates both holidays.

Many blacks celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa, which is designed to promote African-American heritage.

Greeting cards from American Greetings feature black people in African attire and the colors red, black and green, which are linked to African heritage.

Carlton Cards, the Montgomery Ward department store and the AMBASA gift shop carry Kwanzaa greeting cards. Lynn's plans to have some next week.

"As with anything you get involved with, you need merchandise to keep it going," Ms. Adenike said.