Undeterred by cold temperatures, light snow and slight winds, about 40 people gathered Monday in downtown Evanston for a combined celebration of the last day of Hanukkah and the first day of Kwanzaa.
The highlight of the event was the lighting of the first candle of seven atop a kinara. The seven lights in the candle holder symbolize the seven principles of Kwanzaa, which was first celebrated in 1966.
The first candle, which was lit Monday, represents the first principle, “umoja” – Swahili for unity.
“These are two celebrations that really, fundamentally are not about what we cannot possibly accomplish alone, but about the limitless things which we can accomplish together,” said Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss. Biss thanked the community for joining the celebrations despite the cold.
Organized by Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, the event featured remarks from Rabbi Andrea London of Beth Emet Synagogue and Pastor Ken Cherry of Christ Temple Church, as well as a dance performance.
“The beauty of Kwanzaa is that it teaches us that we are better together, we are more together,” Cherry said. He likened the crowd Monday to a reflection of America as a mixture of cultures and people, and encouraged those attending to unite together, cooperate with their neighbors and do their best.
At the conclusion of the celebration, Tim Rhoze, artistic director of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, led a chant of “Harambee,” Swahili for “come together.” He said the word seven times, in honor of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
Council Members Krissie Harris, 2nd Ward, and Juan Geracaris, 9th Ward, were also present at the celebration. “It’s a great way for the community to come together,” Geracaris said.