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How to celebrate Kwanzaa and Hanukkah in Baton Rouge

Most of us know the meaning behind Christmas traditions, but what about other December holidays like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah? 225 wanted to know what other cultures are doing locally to honor the holiday season—and how to celebrate on your own with traditional food found right in the Capital City. Here’s your guide on celebrating Kwanzaa and Hanukkah in Baton Rouge.


Kwanzaa 

Six facts about Kwanzaa 

1. Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrating family, community and culture. It is celebrated by Africans of all religious backgrounds.

2. The holiday was created in 1966 by activist, author and professor Dr. Maulana Karenga. 

3. It is celebrated Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. 

4. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits” in Swahili.

5. Each of Kwanzaa’s seven days represents a different value of African culture. The principles include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. 

6. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green. Black represents the people; red represents their struggle; and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle. 

Where to get a taste of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa cuisine includes dishes from all over the African diaspora. Typical Kwanzaa feasts feature everything from traditional African dishes like jollof rice and pot-stew to African-American soul food dishes like candied yams and collard greens. Here are a few local spots to get traditional African dishes and soul food for your holiday spread. 

SOUL FOOD

Outside of Cajun cuisine and seafood, there’s one style of cuisine Louisianans can never do wrong: soul food. Get the classic soul food dishes like fried chicken, mac and cheese, and corn bread at Baton Rouge staples like Chicken Shack and Zeeland Street and other flavor champs like Vegan Friendly Foods, Dorothy’s Soul Food Kitchen and Pappa’s Soul Food, just to name a few. 

Jollof rice with chicken, plantains, pounded yams and egusi soup with goat and dried fish at BB&PF. Photo by Collin Richie

AFRICAN FOOD

Fried plantains, jollof rice and couscous, oh my. Get traditional African cuisine with a healthy twist at Nigerian restaurant BB&PF on Florida Boulevard

Where to celebrate locally

Want to learn more about Kwanzaa? Attend the 30th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration hosted by nonprofit Africentric Focus Group Dec. 28 at Southern University. The celebration will feature art, jewelry and an appearance by guest speaker and historian Dr. Runoko Rashidi. The celebration begins at 5 p.m. in T.T. Allain Hall, room 313. 


Hanukkah 

Five facts about Hanukkah

1. Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday that starts on the 25th of Kislev, a month in the Hebrew calendar that usually falls within November or December in the Gregorian calendar.

2. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian-Greek army.

3. Hanukkah lasts for eight days and nights because Jewish tradition says the victorious Maccabees could only find an amount of oil to keep the commemorative menorah lit for one night, but the menorah miraculously stayed lit for eight nights.

4. Menorahs are lit with a primary candle first, and that candle is used to light an additional candle for each night. The first night, the primary candle and an additional candle is lit, the second night two additional candles are lit, and it continues until the eighth night. Candles are lit from right to left, signifying how the Hebrew language is read. Special prayers are said when lighting the candles. The lit Hanukkiah (a menorah used specifically during Hanukkah) is placed in a doorway or window.

5. To honor the miracle of the holy oil, Jewish people eat foods fried in oil like latkes, or potato pancakes paired with applesauce and sour cream, or jelly doughnuts.

Where to get a taste of Hanukkah

There’s nothing like a traditional Hanukkah dinner. Crispy latkes, wine-braised brisket, warm challah and matzo ball soup are a few of the Jewish holiday must-haves. Here are four places locals can get their fix of traditional Hanukkah dishes at restaurants and markets around town.

COCHA

Bite into this modern take on latkes, potato pancakes, at downtown restaurant Cocha. Its sweet potato and beet latke comes with creme fraiche, green onion and cured salmon.

COUNTERSPACE BR

Challah bread anyone? Order a beautifully braided loaf from Counterspace BR to add the finishing touches to your Hanukkah dinner table spread.

Milford’s on Third in the Watermark Hotel downtown. Photo by Ischelle Martin

MILFORD’S ON THIRD

Warm up with a filling bowl of matzo ball soup at Milford’s on Third. Its signature soup is made the classic way with three plump matzo balls in a bowl of broth and herbs. 

WHOLE FOODS MARKET

Get all of your Hanukkah favorites at Whole Foods Market. Locals can order dishes like classic latkes, matzo ball soup, wine-braised brisket, and green beans with mushroom and tahini online to be picked up just in time for the holidays. All orders must be placed 48 hours ahead of pick up date and time. 

Where to celebrate locally 

What better way to celebrate Hanukkah than with a hot latke bar, menorahs, dreidels and chocolate gelt drop? Chabad of Baton Rouge is hosting its fifth annual Hanukkah event Chanukah at the State Capitol Dec. 22, 4-5:30 p.m. Children can get their faces painted and play festive games in the children’s activity center. The event is free to the public at the steps of the State Capitol. 


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