The Munificent Seven 

Kwanzaa celebrates the virtues of African-American culture

WED 12/29

Contrary to common belief, Kwanzaa is not a replacement for Christmas or any other holiday. Founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga more than 30 years ago as an affirmation of being African, Kwanzaa derives its name from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits." For seven days (from December 26 through January 1), African-Americans give thanks for the bounty of the season and reflect on seven guiding principles intended to bring them closer to unity, wholeness and harmony in their world (shouldn't everyone meditate on principles such as these?). Thus Kwanzaa boosts whatever holidays you already celebrate by adding another week of meaningful contemplation to the mix, plus a lot more delicious food and drink.

The Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard; 314-577-9400) celebrates Kwanzaa again this year with "Kwanzaa: Festival of the First Fruits" from noon to 4 p.m. With a traditional African feast table displaying typical harvest items, a special Kwanzaa ceremony at 1 and 3 p.m., African tales courtesy of storyteller Mama Katambwa and an array of vendors selling African crafts, MoBot's Kwanzaa is an excellent opportunity to experience this cultural holiday. "Kwanzaa: Festival of the First Fruits" is free with regular garden admission, and more information is available at www.mobot.org. -- John Goddard

Beer's to 2005
Schlafly's New Year's Eve party

FRI 12/31

On New Year's Eve, we usually like to find the swankiest party possible and bring the class level down and the crass level up. This year, that might take some doin'. Tuxedoed gents and denim-clad hooligans alike can enjoy the Black Velvet and Bluegrass party at Schlafly Bottleworks (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; 314-241-2337 or www.schlafly.com). From 5 p.m. until 1 a.m., there's a special menu (adding bold blue notes to the restaurant's usual crunchy-granola suite), bluegrass music (the Flying Mules and the Lonesome Pines perform) and a special midnight toast with something called "Black Velvet" (a mix of oatmeal stout and wine). Admission to the bluegrass party tent is $5 (free for dinner patrons). -- Mia York

Black & Blue Year's Eve
The Panda AC gets it on

FRI 12/31

Instead of surrounding yourself with people who will kiss and be happy this New Year's Eve, you should surround yourself with people who'll be trying to knock each other's blocks off. The Panda Athletic Club (1619 North Broadway; 314-621-6465 or www.pandaac.org) invites those with a fondness for the pugilistic arts to attend a 9 p.m. New Year's Eve party benefiting the Panda AC Youth Program Fund. Your $5 donation gets you performances by the Baysayboos and the Good Griefs, as well as a couple of exhibition rounds between members of the International Brotherhood of the Sweet Science (the folks who put on those Hoosierweight Boxing matches). Between the outbursts of boxing and the rock & roll, you can enjoy the record collection of Jesse (the host of the "Loose Rock Lunch" show on KDHX [88.1 FM]), plus sample the beer keg for a few dollars more (shuddup, all the money's going to the kids). Rock & roll, beer and a guaranteed fight? That sounds like Christmas II, not New Year's Eve. -- Paul Friswold

Baba-who?

THUR 12/30

School's out for another three days: What are you doing with your kids today? Get to the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599) at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. for a free performance by singer/storyteller Babaloo. We're unfamiliar with his oeuvre, but he's reputed to sing about boogers and other kid-friendly topics. We have boogers, so we're in. We might even stay for the 1 p.m. show, even though it's a reprise of the earlier performance. -- Paul Friswold

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