that brings the dawn,
. . .
This light is you.
And you are light.
from You Are Light
written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
accessed on YouTube, 11/16/21
As the sun sets earlier and days get colder, we calm our collective fears with re-direction. We celebrate.
Just when it seems that Darkness will indeed conquer Light, we reach Winter Solstice. This year (2021) it arrives in Northern Hemisphere at 10:59 AM (ET) on December 21 when the days, miraculously and seemingly imperceptibly, will begin to lengthen.
This time of year is cause for great and many celebrations.
Just as we approach the darkest time of year, Dwili celebrants watch the sliver of the new moon grow larger and larger to symbolize the growth of peace and joy, the victory of good over evil, and light over darkness. It’s a five-day holiday beginning on the new moon of the of the lunar month, Kartik, and is a true festival of lights. This year Dwali began on November 4, here in the US.
My own Festival of Lights (however you transliterate it into English) Chanukkah or Hanukkah, is also based on the lunar calendar. Also beginning on the new moon, on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, we watch the moon slowly grow more full. We add a candle in our Chanukkiah each night for eight nights to symbolize the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil.
Before it became a tobacco-less cigarette brand, the Scandinavian Feast of Juul (also Jul) was a preChristian holiday to honor Thor, god of the sun. Celebrants lit a log, the fire literally and symbolically meant warmth and certainty that the sun would return to its former strength. A Yule log was burned until only ash was left. Sometimes the ashes were scattered over a field, as fertilizer, or kept as tokens to portend a coming year of good fortune. Modern-day Yule logs are a carryover. Yule festivals are still celebrated in Scandinavian countries.
Muslims also follow a lunar calendar. The holy month of Ramadan occurs in a regular pattern as the moon waxes and wanes. Eid al-Adha, a three-day holiday, celebrates the end of Ramadan and is marked with joyous festivities. Lighting candles or electric lights is not a major component of the holiday since it moves throughout the year as the moon cycles around the earth and the earth spins around the sun.
This time of year Christmas lights shine in neighborhoods and public places, some with restraint, and some with reckless abandon. A few streets away from me, a whole block of neighbors have their displays choreographed to radio music. You can tune in as you drive by, heater on, windows closed. Each house is an extravagant display. Stars balance on rooftops, reindeer prance across lawns, and glass icicles drip rhythmically from eaves and dormers. City police post temporary signs warning drivers not to stop. It would block traffic on the small side street.
The light symbolizes the same triumph of Goodness over Evil.
Just as Dwali, Chanukkah, Jul, Eid-al-Adha are, Christmas is a joyous celebration filled with optimism for the future.
Also occurring in the darkest days of the year, is Kwanzaa, a cultural, not a religious, holiday. It begins the day after Christmas and ends on January 1. The candles in the Kinara symbolize different principles of a good life including creativity, unity, and faith. One more candle is lit each night to serve as a reminder of those principles. A kinara’s seven candles shine with bright hope for a new year filled with happiness, joy, and peace.
So, even though we celebrate differently, and at slightly different times, let’s take time to celebrate our similarities. Deep down, under the political divisions, the economic disparities, the common and pervasive Fear of the Unknown (and the known — especially COVID 19, Climate Catastrophe, epidemics of gun-violence and drug addiction) deep down, most of us do what we can to make the world a little better. Most of us really do.
Our daylight hours will continue to shrink for another week. Then, as we watch our days grow longer, as we peruse garden catalogues and Spring fashion, as we anticipate crocuses and forsythia blooms, we can continue to cuddle up with hot chocolate or a hot Toddy and enjoy the quiet of Winter, for another little while.
--stay curious! (and shine your light brightly)