Tis the season for festivals of light. Indians mark Diwali with the lighting of thousands of lamps. In Sweden, girls wreath their heads with candles as they celebrate St. Lucia. Jews around the world light the menorah. Christians light advent candles. In Thailand, candle bedecked boats drift on the waters.
Light and Hope
In the old days, when these traditions got started, twas a pretty grim season – dark, cold, no electric light or gas heat to help people warm up on the inside. Fire was the only way to push the cold darkness away. We’ve come a long way but that feeling of bleak midwinter still envelops us. This year, maybe more than most, the horrific happenings around the world add to a feeling of darkness. Maybe we need these festivals of light now more than ever. And to share in them with our children. After all, those cherubic little faces hold our hopes for the future.
Where to find these Festivals of Light?
One of our family traditions is a day at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry Christmas Trees from Around the World. There are trees that seem to dance with colored brightness, trees that quiet us down with lights of white illuminating deep green pine, trees with widely spaced branches that cradle flickering candles. Some version of this is echoed in cities and towns across the world.
Another family tradition of ours takes place in the smaller space of our home. There we gather around the table, sing songs, and light candles – four orbs spaced around an advent wreath of pine, eight shedding light from a menorah. Each person has a special role – one lights the candles, one leads us in singing, one accompanies us on the piano, one reads stories of light and hope, one snuffs the flame at the end of our gathering. The scent of melting wax binds us as we move on to our separate activities.
We gather around the light of the fireplace, warming our hands around cups of hot cider and cocoa that we ladle from large pots simmering over stovetop flame.
One year, my daughter wanted only one thing for Christmas – a miniature lighted tree for her bedside table. Each night during the long winter season, she turned on those tiny tree lights, filling her room with a soft warm glow.
There is something magical and hopeful about this time of year as we create light in the midst of darkness. Enjoy the season!
What are your traditions of light?