By Vice Mayor Felicia M. Brunson….
I send greetings to all those in West Park celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights.

During Hanukkah, people of the Jewish faith around the world mark the triumph of Jews against tyranny and oppression more than two millennia ago. With courage and unfailing faith, the Maccabees secured the Jewish people’s freedom and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. As they prepared to rededicate the Temple, there was only enough oil for one day, but the light continued to burn for eight days. Today, the lighting of the Menorah represents this ancient miracle and brings a message of hope and freedom to the Jewish people.

The first day of Chanukah is the start of a celebratory period in which a four-sided toy called dreidel is used for games.  The dreidel is a toy that is popular during the Chanukah celebrations. It is a spinning top with a different Hebrew letter inscribed in each of its four sides – the four letters form an acronym meaning “a great miracle happened here”. The first night of Chanukah (or Hanukkah) starts with special blessings at sunset the day before the 25th of Kislev.  Many Americans of Jewish faith also eat food fried in olive oil, such as potato cakes, and different fried breads. Chanukah dishes include sufganiot (Hanukkah donuts), potato latkes (pancakes), mandelbrot (this can be sliced like a hard bread), and rugelach (pastry that with different fillings). The first night of Chanukah is also a night when people sing traditional songs to celebrate Chanukah. Gift-giving is also popular at this time of the year.

The hanukiah (or chanukkiyah) is a type of candelabrum that holds eight candles to commemorate the eight days that the oil burned and a ninth candle that sits apart, known as the shamash, or servant candle that lights the others. One candle is lit on the first night, another on the second, and so forth until all candles are lit on the last night.
As West Park families and friends share in the joyous traditions of Hanukkah, we recognize the power of faith to accomplish miracles and bring light from the darkness. We join in giving thanks for the blessings God has granted to our City. May the joy of Hanukkah and the peace and goodwill of the season fill our hearts and inspire us to lead lives of compassion.  Wishing all residents of West Park- Happy Hanukkah!

I send greetings to those in the City of West Park observing Kwanzaa!!!
Celebrated by millions across the world, Kwanzaa honors the history and heritage of Africa. Kwanzaa is a holiday honoring the culture and traditions of people of African origin. It is celebrated by people from a range of African countries and their descendants. Kwanzaa consists of a week of celebrations, which ends with a feast and the exchange of gifts. During the celebrations, candles are lit and libations are poured. A libation is the name given to a ritual pouring of a drink as an offering to a god. During Kwanzaa, a wooden unity cup is used to pour the libations.

A Kwanzaa ceremony often also includes performance of music and drumming, a reflection on the Pan-African colors of red, green and black and a discussion of some aspect of African history. Women often wear brightly colored traditional clothing. Some cultural organizations hold special exhibitions of African influenced art or performances during the period of the celebrations. Originally the people observing Kwanzaa did not mix any elements of other festivals into their celebrations. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly common for people to mix elements of Kwanzaa with Christmas or New Year celebrations. For instance, a family may have both a Christmas tree and a Kwanzaa candle stick on display in their home. This enables them to include both Christian and African inspired traditions in their lives at this time of year.

The main symbols of Kwanzaa are a mat, on which to put the things needed for the celebration, the unity cup used to pour libations, a candle stick holding seven candles, the seven candles, ears of corn, the Kwanzaa flag and a poster depicting the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are: unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; co-operative economics; purpose; creativity; and earth.

The colors of Kwanzaa are red, black and green. The Kwanzaa flag consists of three blocks, one in each of these colors. Three of the seven candles are red, three are green and one is black. Each candle represents one of the principles of Kwanzaa. The candle holder is carved from a single piece of wood and its shape was inspired by the form of the Ashanti royal throne.

During this joyous time of year, residents renew their commitment to hope, understanding, and the great promise of our City. In honoring the traditions of Africa, Kwanzaa strengthens the ties that bind individuals in West Park, our country and around the world.  Wishing all residents of West Park- Happy Kwanzaa!

As Christmas Day is draws closer and we prepare to end another year, I wish you a happy and safe holiday season. We are truly blessed to live in a wonderful City that continues to accomplish much and move forward. We have faced disappointments and difficult times this past year—as individuals, as families, and as a City. The beauty of Christmas helps us find a calm and inner peace and bring to life the words, “Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright.”  Christmas instills warmth in the hearts of people everywhere. For many, 2011 has brought them more than their fair share of trials. As so often in our lives at times of tragedy, just as on occasions of celebration, we look to each other to bring solace. We come together as a city, as a community of family, friends, and neighbors. I believe that strong and open communities matter both in good times as well as bad. We all have something to learn from one another, whatever our faith whatever our background, whether we be young or old.

I hope that over the coming days, you will be able to slow down and remember the true meaning of this season. Once all of the hustle and bustle is put aside, family, friends, and those we love are what is really important and add real value to our daily lives. As families and friends gather to celebrate Christmas, we remember all the blessings that fill our lives, beginning with the great blessing that came on a holy night in Bethlehem. For Christians around the world, the birth of Jesus is a central event – an example of God’s profound love for humanity; and the pathway to hope and to new life. Today, the Christmas story still speaks to every generation.

I would like to pay tribute to many of you who work selflessly for others within our City. Christmas is the perfect opportunity to recognize the valuable work undertaken by so many people in service to our community. Our police and fire department and City staff make a difference in the lives of our residents.  We also pray for our brave men and women in uniform as they sojourn back home to us. We are grateful for their service to our country, and for the support and sacrifice of their families. And we thank you West Park for being the caring and giving community that you are. I thank each and every one of you for your dedication.

There is an important lesson for all of us to learn during this festive season.  Christmas marks a moment to pause, to reflect and believe in the possibilities of rebirth and renewal, which remains a powerful symbol of hope for a better future – a time to take a moment as we face the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead.  So as we come together among family and friends, I look forward to the coming year. I hope that in the months to come, we shall be able to renew our pride within our City, a sense of sharing a common heritage enriched by the cultural diversity of our community. I, as well as your Commission and Staff, hope that each of you find peace, hope, happiness, and health, as we continue to serve you to the best our abilities each and every day.

I am hopeful that you and your loved ones have a joyful and blessed Christmas and that the New Year brings peace, and happiness. I look forward to the New Year with optimism and a true sense of duty to continue working with my fellow City Commission members and staff to ensure that West Park continues to be prosperous and progressive.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2012!

Remember to contact me at City Hall with your ideas, suggestions or concerns. I represent you and appreciate your input into the continued success of our beloved city.  I can be reached at (954) 889-4164 or email fbrunson@cityofwestpark.org.

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