Hundreds of people crowded into the Portland Public Library’s Rines Auditorium on Saturday to celebrate six different holidays, each one drawing on the symbolism of light.

The sixth annual Season of Light celebration included food, arts and crafts, a silent auction and raffle all centered on Christmas, Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and the winter solstice.

The auditorium pulsated with music and laughter as adults chatted and children rushed from table to table, tasting foods and inspecting the displays.

“For us it is important to show both the commonalities and differences,” said Virginia Dearani, founder and executive director of the One Tree Learning Wholistic Learning Center, which sponsored the event.

One Tree is a South Portland-based umbrella organization for the Roots and Fruits preschool, Seeds Institute and Community Branches Project, which focus on multicultural programming.

Amanda Wertanen of Portland reads a story about Christmas to her son Oliver Wertanen, 3, and Caroline Stoner, 4, of Portland on Saturday. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Dearani said the annual event, which is free, quickly outgrew its previous location and moved to the Portland library a few years ago.

Families donated traditional holiday foods and artifacts for each of the six holiday displays, which included information about how each holiday is celebrated and how it is connected to lights.

The festival attracted a multicultural crowd, including Kash Dutta of Portland, his wife, Michelle Lohutko, and their daughter Paisley, 7.

Lohutko is Polish-American and Dutta was born in India, where he remembers celebrating Diwali, a Hindu festival.

Lohutko said they enjoyed last year’s Season of Light, so they decided to return.

“We loved it. We won the raffle last year,” Lohutko said.

Omari Brent, 8, of Portland smiles after reading a book about Kwanzaa at the Season of Light event at the Portland Public Library on Saturday. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Hyeri Yoon of Portland; her husband, Joe Mendell; their children, Louis, 4, and Lami, 8 months; and Mendell’s parents were at the festival for the first time.

Yoon, who is from South Korea, met her husband while they were both living in the Middle East. She said Christmas is a major holiday in South Korea, along with Buddha’s birthday, Vesak, which is celebrated in May.

She said South Korea also celebrates the Chinese New Year in a big way. She and her husband are raising their children to speak both English and Korean.

“We try to make things for the holidays together and keep traditions as a multicultural family,” Yoon said.

Shana Mueller of North Yarmouth brought her daughters, Jasmine, 7, and Sydney, 6, who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah at home.

“They went to the preschool and had an amazing experience there, so we have come to this event for a few years,” Mueller said.

 

Lora Burns of Portland reads about the Hindu festival of Diwali at the Season of Light event. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

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