LEWISTON — The inaugural Seasons of Giving, a holiday celebration highlighting different cultural traditions, kicked off Sunday afternoon at Museum L-A.

Hosted by the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council and the museum, the event showcased the diversity of the holiday season through games, food and presentations put together by members of LYAC.

Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa each had tables with display boards detailing the history of their traditions, with crafts made by the LYAC as gifts for patrons.

“We partnered because we were both looking for ways to celebrate the holidays in an inclusive, diverse way, and celebrate the multitude of ways you can spend this holiday season,” said Rachel Ferrante, executive director of Museum L-A. “The LYAC came up with the holidays they wanted to highlight, but I would say that in Lewiston-Auburn there are so many different holidays celebrated.

“Of course Christmas and Hanukkah in the United States are the ones that I think immediately come to mind, but I was delighted to see them also include Kwanzaa (since) particularly in this area, there are people that are not originally from the United States (who celebrate) the holidays in all sorts of ways, and I think it’s important to represent that.”

The event was held at a large room with wide windows, lit by the evening light reflected off the snow blanketing the parking lot.

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LYAC members wove beaded bracelets at the Kwanzaa table in tandem with volunteers who made ornaments for Christmas. The former table emphasized the tradition of African step dancing and the significance of food, specifically corn, which was represented by small cornbread cupcakes.

“One of the big things we learned (about Kwanzaa celebrants) is the importance of showing their African dance stepping, so we really tried to incorporate that by showing videos and stuff they do, like the African dance competition that we put on,” LYAC member Bria Matthew said. “That’s the one thing they show during Kwanzaa: Their culture and their dance, so everyone can learn it.”

Members of the community gathered to reflect on their own traditions and learn about others. A few attendees said they even discovered things about themselves.

Lewiston Youth Advisory Council members create a display Sunday afternoon about Kwanzaa during the inaugural Seasons of Giving event at Museum L-A in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I think it’s interesting to learn about different cultures and different religions I don’t have much experience celebrating, so it’s been really nice,” volunteer Nafisa Tasnia said. “One person came up to me and said, ‘Oh I have some Jewish in me, which I only figured out recently,’ so even if they don’t know it themselves, it’s very interesting.”

“We’ve had pretty steady flow and people are really engaged with the tables and talking to the different members about the three holidays, and I think we’ve all kind of learned a lot about what people practice and what things mean,” said Dottie Perham-Whittier, community relations coordinator for the city of Lewiston and LYAC adviser.

Canned goods and toiletries were collected to be distributed to residents of emergency shelters by Safe Voices, an organization combating domestic violence in Western Maine. Stuffed boxes greeted patrons as they walked in. After every tenth donation, a LYAC member ran outside to ring the Bates Mill bell.

“It’s just been a nice community-generational thing,” Perham-Whittier said. “We’ve had several grandparents come in with their grandchildren, which has been a nice way to talk about different things.”


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