This time of year some are celeb r a t i n g Christmas on December 25th some are celeb r a t i n g Kwanz a a s t a r t ing December 26th through January 1st, and some are celebrating Hanukkah during an eight-day period from December 16th through the 24th. The celebration of Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States and also celebrated in the Western African Diaspora in other nations of the Americas. The celebration honors African heritage in African American culture and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba). Maulana Karenga created this holiday and was first celebrated in 1966–67. Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with objects of art; colorful African cloth such as kente, especially the wearing of kaftans by women, and fresh fruits that represent African idealism. It is customary to include children in Kwanzaa ceremonies and to give respect and gratitude to ancestors. Libations are shared, generally with a common chalice, Kikombe cha Umoja, passed around to celebrants. Non- African Americans also celebrate Kwanzaa. The holiday greeting is “Joyous Kwanzaa.” A Kwanzaa ceremony may include drumming and musical selections, libations, a reading of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness, reflection on the Pan- African colors, a discussion of the African principle of the day or a chapter in African history, a candle-lighting ritual, artistic performance, and finally, a feast.
In the celebration of Hanukkah, every year, usually in mid- to late-December on the Western calendar, Kislev 25 on the Hebrew calendar, Jews around the world celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the holiday remembers one particular instance of triumph over religious persecution, when the Jews were able to escape oppression at the hands of Antiochus, a Syrian king. To people who are not Jewish, Hanukkah is often the best-known of the Jewish holidays. Hanukkah does not have as much religious importance as the Jewish High Holidays–Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but it is one of the most entertaining holidays on the Jewish calendar for adults and children alike. It is a happy time. It is a time of re-dedication and celebration. To those celebrating Hanukkah I would like to wish you a Happy Hanukkah.
For many Americans, Christmas is one of the most joyous times of the year. It is a time for families and friends to gather together, and for Christians it is one of the holiest days of the year. In a particular comic strip there is this dialog: its Christmastime and Lucy comes in where Charlie Brown is standing and says, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. `Tis the season of peace on earth and good will toward men. Therefore, I suggest we forget all our differences and love one another.” Charlie Brown, whose face lights up at this, says, “That’s wonderful, Lucy. I’m so glad you said that. But tell me, do we have to love each other only at this season of the year? Why can’t we love each other all year long?” Lucy replies, “What are you, a fanatic or something?” If we get serious about Christmas, it seems that we are branded as some kind of fanatic. Christmas is to be a time of “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” In another clip from Charlie Browns Christmas when Linus and Charlie brown are standing by the cement wall and Charlie Brown speaks of how Christmas causes him to be depressed and how he does not look forward to it. The draw is that not everyone looks forward to Christmas and the holidays. When we say that Christmas is family, not everyone has a family. When stores advertise it is important to be home for the holidays, not everyone has a home to go to. Many have lost a spouse, friend, child, been through a crisis, divorce, or whatever that does not bring feelings of joy and anticipation at this time of the year. Regardless of which holiday is celebrated, I thought, how wonderful homes could be, how wonderful our lives could be, how wonderful our world could be, if we really did put into practice the blessing of “peace on earth, good will toward men” and during this holiday season, we think once again, maybe it is not impossible. Maybe we really could have hearts filled with love. Maybe we really could be kind to each other and rejoice with each other and not just once a year, but all year long. I am sure that most of us have begun our shopping. There may be a few procrastinators who wait until almost the last minute, but most of us spend a great deal of time and thought in choosing just the right gift for that special person in our lives. We think about their needs and wants and what may make them happy. Then we go shopping and make that purchase, often spending more money than we planned. We gift wrap it, and anxiously await the moment when that loved one will open our special gift and when he or she opens the box, and looks at our gift, we eagerly anticipate expressions of joy and delight. But if there are no expressions of joy and delight, we will be most disappointed. Because in receiving the gift, they are receiving us or if they reject it, they are rejecting us. At least, that is the way we feel and even as we are watching the faces of others to see how they receive our gifts, others will be watching us to see how we receive their gifts. You see, giving and receiving is an important part of life, therefore I am aware that we have a magnificent community spirit here in West Park, and that has been reinforced many times in the past and I believe it will continue. That is why the Commission puts the people first. You are our priority. Over the years we have raised the bar with our new Policies, ordinances, and resolutions that dramatically will improve the quality of service and the appearance of our city. Every West Park resident plays an important role in making our city, from our volunteers – ordinary people doing extraordinary work – to our seniors, students, and family members. Of course, our Commissioners and city staff always have as a top priority how best we can serve you, the citizens, who placed us in office. As you look at the projects going on you can see that they are delivering results that helps improve our quality of life. These results do not happen by chance – they are the result of years of hard work by many members of the community and our Commission and staff. The challenge is to continue to improve. The key is establishing stronger partnerships between the Commission and the community. Next year, 2014 will be a year of opportunity for West Park and I can ensure you that the Commission and staff are working to seize these opportunities.
HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS, A JOYOUS KWANZAA, AND HAPPY HANUKKAH TO ALL. GOD BLESS AMERICA AND GOD BLESS THE CITY OF WEST PARK.