Grand Menorah Lighting at Fountain Square on Dec. 23.

Evanston residents and visitors celebrated the holiday season at special events that included the annual Tree Lighting and Chanukah Menorah Lighting ceremonies at Fountain Square, and the celebration of the first day of Kwanzaa at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

On Dec. 27 all community members were invited to celebrate Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, at Beth Emet Synagogue, 1224 Dempster St.. Home cooked traditional Jewish dishes and beverages will be available for purchase. All Evanston community sharing events are free and open to the public.

Earlier this month, on the evening of Dec. 7, hundreds of people came out for the Downtown Evanston Holiday Tree Lighting. Santa and Mrs. Claus joined Mayor Steve Hagerty and a group of children to light up the live spruce tree at the south end of Fountain Square plaza. The event featured performances by the Evanston’s Children’s Choir, Northwestern University Purple haze a cappella group, Chicago Tap Theater and The Actor’s Gymnasium. Following the live entertainment, the community was invited to enjoy hot chocolate and meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus at The Crystal Ballroom & Lounge at The Merion, 529 Davis St.

Evanston’s public Chanukah Menorah Lighting, also at Fountain Square plaza, took place at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 23. An enthusiastic crowd gathered in 55-degree weather for the lighting of the 10-foot Menorah. Rabbi Klein of Tannenbaum Chabad House at Northwestern University was joined by Evanston Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th Ward,, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senator Laura Fine, Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook and Fire Chief Brian Scott at the ceremony. Daniel Melnikov, a fourth-grade student at Orrington School, had the honor of lighting the Menorah. Musical entertainment was provided by pianist and signer Paul Goldman. Afterthe ceremony, community members were treated to jelly doughnuts.

The first day of Kwanzaa was celebrated on December 26 at Fleetwood-Jourdain at 6 p.m. with a lighting of the Kinara and a presentation by Dr. Gilo Kwesi Logan of the Seven Principals of Kwanzaa: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamma ((cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). Dr. Logan and SOUL Creations provided musical entertainment and dance performances following the kinara-lighting ceremony. Community members and visitors also enjoyed arts and crafts and an interactive African drumming circle. In addition, eight community “elders” were recognized for their many years of contributing to the Evanston community and beyond: Bennett Johnson, Bill Logan, Rose Johnson, Delores Holmes, George Dotson, Oliver Ruff and Denise Martin, along with Fifth Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons.

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.