zanmi haitian restaurant
Zanmi restaurant, which opened in February, is hosting its first annual tree lighting event this month. Courtesy of the Zanmi Instagram page

By Sam Bojarski

zanmi haitian restaurant
Zanmi restaurant, which opened in February, is hosting its first annual tree lighting event this month. Courtesy of the Zanmi Instagram page

With public holiday events like the Rockefeller Center tree lighting closed to in-person crowds, Zanmi restaurant decided to offer a hyperlocal version. 

“We decided to do our own tree-lighting for our neighborhood,” said Wesly Jean-Simon, co-owner of the restaurant, located in the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens neighborhood in central Brooklyn. 

The neighborhood Christmas tree lighting will take place at Zanmi’s 1206 Nostrand Ave. location. The Dec. 12 event is scheduled to run from 1-10 p.m., with complimentary hot beverages, pastries and live music.

Multiple free outdoor events are taking place this holiday season, some with extra precautions to allow for social distancing, including several organized by Brooklyn Pop-Up.

At the Zanmi-led tree lighting, residents are invited to help decorate an outdoor Christmas tree at the family event, Jean-Simon said. 

“During the pandemic, people are staying home, nobody can really do anything,” Jean-Simon said. “The neighborhood needs something to uplift them or inspire them, so we’re doing just that.” 

DJ Hard Hittin Harry, a 30-year music industry veteran and former member of the Fugees hip-hop group, will provide music during the afternoon. Harry is known for fusing styles like hip-hop and R&B with Haitian compas.

Singer-songwriter Riva Neyri Precil is also scheduled to perform with her husband and musical collaborator Monvelyno Alexis.  

A native of Brooklyn, Precil has performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Carifesta XII, in Haiti. She released a solo album, “Perle de Culture,” in 2015. Alexis, a singer-songwriter and guitarist born in Port-au-Prince, fuses traditional Haitian music with jazz. 

From 7-10 p.m., singer-songwriter Mikaelle Cartright will perform, accompanied by a four-piece band. Cartright, who was born in New York City and raised in Port-au-Prince, brings a style influenced by Haitian roots music, jazz and acoustic soul. 

Despite the limits on large gatherings, there are plenty of outdoor holiday activities that allow for social distancing. 

Brooklyn Pop-Up is offering shopping events, including a Dec. 12 holiday bazaar at the Old Stone House in Park Slope. Holiday fairs at the LeFrak Center in Prospect Park are scheduled for Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. 

Also occurring in Prospect Park is the annual Largest Menorah Lighting, which kicks off on Dec. 10, the first day of Chanukah, with a concert. 

Residents of Dyker Heights have decorated for the neighborhood’s annual light display, but many of the organized tours that took place in past years have been cancelled. Law enforcement and elected officials have encouraged any visitors to follow social distancing protocols.  

To view more free holiday events in Brooklyn and beyond, click here

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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