Home for the Holidays

The Meaning of Kwanzaa

As we wrap up our special “Home for the Holidays” series, we feature Kwanzaa, which takes place every year from December 26 to January 1. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration honouring African traditions and cultural heritage. It was started by Maulana Karenga in 1966, following the violent Watts riots in Los Angeles, California. Karenga believed it was important for African Americans to have an occasion to commemorate their cultural heritage, and thus created Kwanzaa as an alternative to existing holidays. Kwanzaa is a Swahili word that translates to English as, “first fruits from the harvest.” Though Kwanzaa has roots in the Black Nationalist Movement, it has grown to hold meaning as a time for all people to reflect on and celebrate African American and pan-African traditions and heritage.

Image Source: fitsnews.com

The Principles of Kwanzaa
There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, which reflect the importance of community, while helping to create a better world. It’s no surprise that we at The Flag Shop can easily identify with these principles, which focus on community, social responsibility and creativity.

Meaning: unity
Action: building a community that holds together

Meaning: self-determination
Action: speaking for yourself and making choices that benefit the community

Meaning: collective work and responsibility
Action: helping others within the community

Meaning: cooperative economics
Action: supporting businesses that care about the community

Meaning: a sense of purpose
Action: setting goals that benefit the community

Meaning: creativity
Action: making the community better and more beautiful

Meaning: faith
Action: believing that a better world can be created for communities now and in the future

There are many symbols of Kwanzaa, including the unity cup, representing community; fruits or crops, representing productivity; seven candles, representing the seven principles, and the Bendera flag, made up of the colours black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope resulting from the struggle. Joyous Kwanzaa!

As we wrap up our series on holiday traditions and celebrations, we wish peace and joy to you and yours over the holidays, and the best of everything in 2018!

We loved serving our community, clients, customers and friends throughout 2017, and we look forward to connecting again in the new year!

Home for the Holidays

My Memories of Hanukkah

By Susan Braverman

Hanukkah began at sundown on Tuesday, December 12 and ends today – Wednesday, December 20. During Hanukkah, each day, a candle is lit on a special menorah (candle holder) called “hanukkiyah.” The special ninth candle, traditionally the centre candle, is the “shammash” (servant candle) and is used to light the other candles. The menorah is often placed in the front window, displayed for others to see, and to remember the story of Hanukkah.

Image Source: Michele Westmorland / Getty Images

Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights marking the rededication of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, which took place during the 160s BCE. Hanukkah lasts for eight days and is the Hebrew word for “dedication.” It begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which is the month in the Jewish calendar usually occurring around the same time as December.

Growing up with a Jewish father, I can remember many special times celebrating Hanukkah. My dad came from a large family, and although I was not raised in the Jewish faith, I grew up being a part of many lavish gatherings full of friends and neighbours. Those who didn’t have family would join us – rabbis, shoemakers and doctors alike – to share the joy and peace of Hanukkah. My dad’s extended family, including first, second, and third cousins would fly in from all parts of Canada and the US, and on the first night, my aunt’s or uncle’s house would be bustling with joy, laughter, love, and warmth. Even though I didn’t know many of the people, I felt so loved by these strangers. We were family.

Me and my dad, Jack Braverman. This picture was taken in 2016 at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party.

The Story of Hanukkah
During the time of the second temple, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucid Empire, which robbed the Jews and set up idols in the temple. No one could take a stand against them until Mattityahu and his sons drove them out. The Hanukkah lights are reminders of the great miracle, that a small group of Jews were able to overpower the mighty Seleucid army. Even greater was the miracle of the oil. The Seleucid Empire had contaminated the oil in the temple, but the Maccabees (the Jewish warriors), found one single jar that had been untouched. Though this oil was only enough to burn for one day, the warriors lit it as an expression of respect for God, and it miraculously burned for eight days.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Hanukkah Today
During the Jewish festival of lights, gifts are often given on each night. It’s a time gathering with friends and family to play games and celebrate. One popular game is “dreidel”, which is a four- sided top with a letter on each side. The four letters reflect “Nes Gadol Hayah Po.” Translated to English, this phrase means, “A great miracle happened here.” Each player places a coin in a pot and spins the top. The letter signifies how much or how little of the pot is won during each round. The importance of the oil in the Hanukkah story is remembered by preparing and sharing fried foods like “latkes” (potato pancakes) and “sufganiyot” (jam-filled doughnuts).

Image Source: Fuse / Getty Images

Happy Hanukkah! L’chaim!

Home for the Holidays

VanDusen Festival of Lights – The Magic of Christmas

By Susan Braverman

For me, nothing says Christmas more than Christmas lights! With that in mind, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to feature the VanDusen Garden Festival of Lights, which has always been a sign that Christmas is just around the corner!

Festival of Lights. Image Source: VanDusen Garden

I have so many incredible memories of the Festival of Lights through the years, having attended since it began almost 25 years ago. When it snows in Vancouver, being at the Festival makes you feel like you’re at Santa’s house! In the 90s, we helped create its banner program and made its first-ever street banners, so it’s very close to my heart. This year, we are thrilled to be a part of the excitement once again, having supplied over 50 festive street banners for the 2017 Festival of Lights. The banners are up on Oak and West 37th right outside of the Gardens, making the area even more beautiful, and signaling the beginning of the season of good cheer!

These were the very first Festival of Lights street banners we made for VanDusen Garden in the 90s.

This year’s Festival of Lights street banners that just went up about a month ago.

The Festival ends on January 7, so the clock is ticking. Get your tickets and get out there before it’s too late and be drawn into a magical world of wonder and light, and to be counted among the 110,000+ visitors the Festival has welcomed in recent years. It is a community mainstay offering an enchanted winter wonderland stretching across 15 acres, and sparkling with more than a million lights. A memorable experience for kids of every age, the program includes Candy Cane Lane, the interactive icebergs of Livingstone Lake, community choirs, and the Candy Cane Express model train. Here are some highlights of the Festival:

  • Carousel
    What else can bring on more holiday cheer than a ride on a carousel in a beautifully-lit setting? From grandkids to grandparents, it’s family fun for everyone because all tickets include a free ride on the carousel.
  • Santa’s Place
    Families, kids and couples alike can listen to holiday stories and take a selfie with Santa in the glasshouse until December 24. This is free, included with your entry ticket to the festival!
  • Festival Stage
    Sing along to your favourite festive classics! Enjoy warm beverages while listening to singers, choirs, bands and entertainers inside the Visitor Centre halls. This area is now fully licensed.
  • Fireside Lounge
    Gather around the fire pits and warm up with a holiday beverage in this new outdoor licensed area.
  • Make-A-Wish® Candle Grotto
    Make a donation to the Festival’s charity partner, the Make-A-Wish® Foundation, and make a wish while you light a candle to fill this scenic grotto.
  • Make-A-Wish® – Lego Room of Joy
    In the Visitor Centre, learn about the Make-A-Wish® BC & Yukon, get a glow star with a minimum $5 donation and enjoy the Lego display!
  • Recycled Rhythms
    Let your kids have some fun making music with recycled instruments.
  • Tinsel Tunes
    Play the piano and sing along to holiday tunes in the garden.
  • Selfie Spots and Photo Ops
    Look out for frames, sets, and other selfie spots throughout the show and make sure to share with #VanDusenFOL

Earlier this month, the Vancouver Sun published its Guide to the BEST Christmas Light Displays in Metro Vancouver and it’s no surprise that the VanDusen Garden Festival of Lights is included! Check out the list, and if you think your lights have what it takes to be added, just follow the link to share! If your display makes it onto the list, please be sure to let us know!

For more information about the 2017 Festival of Lights, please visit City of Vancouver’s website.

Stay tuned for more holiday traditions and observances as The Flag Shop’s series “Home for the Holidays” continues, next week with Hanukkah. L’chaim!