seal  Purdue News

November 20, 2003

Purdue University experts can talk about a variety of holiday-related issues such as Kwanzaa, dealing with grief and retail sales projections.


1. Expert dispels Kwanzaa celebration myths

2. No set answers for handling grief at holidays, expert says

3. Consumer expert sees Grinchy shopping season for retailers


Expert dispels Kwanzaa celebration myths

Even as the number of people celebrating Kwanzaa continues to increase, others still mistake the African-American cultural holiday as religious, says a Purdue University expert in African-American studies.

"Kwanzaa is a pan-African celebration that is derived from African festivals and is meant to celebrate our culture," says Venetria K. Patton, professor of English and director of the African American Studies and Research Center. "There also is a misconception that people who celebrate Kwanzaa can't celebrate Christmas. People can celebrate Kwanzaa side by side with any religious holiday. People shouldn't feel pressure to celebrate one or the other."

Kwanzaa, which is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, was founded by Maulana Karenga during the black liberation movement of the 1960s. Kwanzaa emphasizes seven basic values of African culture – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The holiday is derived from the first fruit festivals celebrated as far back in history as ancient Egypt to modern times, says Patton.

Patton also can talk about family and community Kwanzaa celebrations, as well as the recent commercialization of the holiday.

CONTACT: Patton, (765) 494-2151,


No set answers for handling grief at holidays, expert says

For families dealing with the loss of a loved one over the holidays, it is important to remember that each person deals with grief in a different way, says a Purdue expert in grief and mourning.

"At the holidays, just as during the rest of the year, it is important for people to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to grieve or to approach grief," says Heather Servaty-Seib, an assistant professor of educational studies.

"Some people want to continue with all of the same rituals as previous years," she says. "Others might want completely change their holiday rituals, while others may choose to do something between the two extremes. Grief is an extremely personal experience, but when people start to focus on how society may be judging the way they grieve, they start to judge themselves."

Servaty-Seib says it's important for parents or caregivers to talk with grieving children before making any holiday plans since children will have their own ideas and opinions about what those plans should include.

"As adults, we often make the mistake of thinking children grieve like we do," she says. "Every member of the family – including the children – will often have different perspectives about how the holidays should be approached after losing a loved one. It is important to allow everyone to have input so that everyone can have a personal connection to the new, altered or continued family tradition.

"Even for young children, parents should not worry about causing more grief by discussing the loved one's death because children are already grieving. Not discussing the loss openly can be, and often is, a factor that actually leads to problems."

CONTACT: Servaty-Seib, (765) 494-0837,


Purdue consumer expert sees Grinchy shopping season for retailers

Predictions of a merry holiday shopping season are apt to turn out to be lumps of coal for retailers, but consumers will find lots of merchandise and early sales, says a Purdue expert.

"My preliminary outlook is for holiday spending to be 2 percent to 3 percent above last year, not the 6-plus percent increase that's being forecast," says Richard A. Feinberg, professor of consumer sciences and retailing. Feinberg, who also is director of Purdue's Center for Customer-Driven Quality, has been issuing annual holiday shopping forecasts for more than a decade.

Feinberg says Wal-Mart, unlike department stores, may see a 6 percent increase over the 2002 holiday shopping season. The other winners will be e-retailers, but they still represent less than 5 percent of retail sales, he says.

A news release on Feinberg's holiday shopping forecast is available online.

CONTACT: Feinberg, (765) 494-8301, (765) 491-5583 (c),