Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

In the darkness light shines: Peekskill to celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa

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In the darkness light shines: Peekskill to celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa

The Peekskill NAACP in collaboration with the Charles (Chuck) Newman Company will be holding the 2nd annual 15 Days of Lights Celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The event will take place Thursday, December 21st at the Gazebo in downtown Peekskill beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Celebration of Lights is an event that began last year when Newman and the local Jewish community of First Hebrew connected with the Peekskill NAACP to bring a program to Peekskill to celebrate the two holiday celebrations and dispel the darkness of racism and antisemitism in the United States. As Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are specifically non-religious observations, this event is purely non-denominational. 

“The black community has long dealt with racism in this country and while antisemitism has been around for hundreds of years, it has once again come to the fore in the U.S. (and unfortunately around the world).  We hope that by coming together as one Peekskill community in this fraught time to light both Kwanzaa and Hanukkah lights, Peekskill will set the standard for the rest of the country,” said Newman.

This year the event takes place in between the two holiday celebrations. Hanukkah began at sundown on December 7th and continued through December 15th.  Kwanzaa begins on December 26 and continues through January 1, 2024. Combined, the 8 day Hanukkah and 7 day Kwanzaa events combine making in the City of Peekskill 15 days of lights.

Rabbi Jennifer Jaech of Temple Israel in Croton lighting a candle on the Menorah at last year’s celebration.  Photo by Regina Clarkin

Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, and dating back over 2,000 years is a Jewish holiday that lasts for eight nights and usually occurs in December. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where Jewish people rose up and fought back against their Greek-Syrian oppressors because they were not allowed to celebrate their religion. After the First Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Greek oppressors, the Jewish people returned to the destroyed Temple to find only one jar of oil to light the Temple’s candles. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days—enough time for the victorious Maccabees to find more oil for their sacred candles. Today, Jewish people continue to celebrate this ancient miracle every year of the oil by burning a candle for eight nights. Jews celebrate Hanukkah using a candle holder called a menorah for eight nights. The menorah holds nine candles—one for each night plus a candle called the shamash, or service, used to light the other candles.

Peekskill NAACP President Elect Priscilla Augustin lights a candle on the Kinara at last year’s celebration. Photo by Regina Clarkin

Kwanzaa is an annual 7-day celebration of African-American culture held every year from December 26 to January 1 and is a time for families and communities to come together to remember the past and to celebrate African American culture. It includes songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. It was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966 and celebrates the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. During the week of Kwanzaa, families gather to share food, honor their ancestors, affirm the bonds between them, and to celebrate African and African American culture. Each day a candle is lit on the Kinara (candle holder) to highlight the principle of that day. Along with the lighting of the candle are various activities, such as reciting the sayings or writings of great black thinkers and writers, reciting original poetry, African drumming, and sharing a meal of African diaspora-inspired foods.

To read more about the first 15 Days of Lights Celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa from 2022, click here to read the Peekskill Herald Kwanzaa and Hanukkah connect to fight racism and antisemitism.

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About the Contributor
As a Peekskill native, Dave is thrilled to be working with the Peekskill Herald showcasing featured calendar events. A 1999 graduate of PHS, he remembers reading and enjoying the original weekly print edition of the Peekskill Herald every Thursday. He especially liked the political stories, local features and sports coverage when it was written by Peekskill Runner columnist Jack Burns who always managed to weave history into the running times. An avid hiker, he enjoys exploring the local trails as well as the concrete ones in his job as a conductor for Metro North Railroad. He’s a former teacher and co-founder of the Friends of the Peekskill Dog Park, where he frequently can be found with his Koda. He’s happy to be part of the Herald’s growth as the source of local news for Peekskill and looks forward to highlighting a few of many of the events and happenings in Peekskill and the surrounding communities. Reach Dave at [email protected]