Shalema Gantt

Shalema Gantt

Celebrations commemorate peace, harvest and victory

NANAIMO – While holly and Christmas lights can be seen across Nanaimo, preparations for other December celebrations are taking place.

While holly and Christmas lights can be seen across Nanaimo, preparations for other December celebrations are taking place as well.

Kwanzaa, a celebration of African heritage, runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 with each day representing seven principles – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, co-operative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Candles on a Kwanzaa kinara (candelabra) in African colours – red, black and green – are lit each of Kwanzaa’s days, said Shalema Gantt, of Nanaimo African Heritage Society.

“I like the concept of that you’re celebrating peace and harmony and there’s seven days of Kwanzaa and each one of those days has a significant meaning and it’s all about fellowshipping and embracing the harvest of our land,” Gantt said.

It is also about bringing family together and if there are gifts, they are handmade. In that spirit, the society will host a celebration on Dec. 26 between 3 and 5 p.m. at 427 Prideaux St.

“What we’re planning to do is have some arts and crafts here for young people to come and they can make some things … We’re also going to have some harvest, some vegetables and some fruit and we will have some food that people can eat that is from the harvest and gardens,” said Gantt.

While Kwanzaa was first celebrated in the mid-1960s, Hanukkah has its beginnings rooted millennia ago, said Rabbi Bentzi Shemtov. It commemorates the Jewish people overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and gaining victory against a much larger Greek army some 2,000 years ago, he said.

As part of the war, the Greeks destroyed oil used by the Jewish people to light candles in their temple. To make that sort of oil took eight days and a jug of oil was found that was supposed to last a day. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days, Shemtov said.

In commemoration of that, a candle on a menorah (candelabra) is lit on each night of Hanukkah.

“One of the special foods we eat, which we eat plenty of, is potato pancakes or doughnuts, and really anything that’s fried in oil to remember the miracle of the oil,” said Shemtov.

This year, Hanukkah begins Dec. 24, ending Jan. 1 and Shemtov invites the public to a menorah-lighting ceremony at Nanaimo city hall on Dec. 28 at 5:30 p.m. There will be plenty of potato pancakes and doughnuts at the event, Shemtov said.