As the days get shorter and winter creeps closer, most of us are preparing for the holidays. This year, of course, everything is a little different, and different doesn’t feel so good. With that in mind, our Diversity & Inclusion Committee recently reached out to our parent community to ask them to share their celebrations of light!
Almost every culture and religion around the world has some way of celebrating light, often during the dark days of winter. Learn more about the celebrations that inspire our community throughout the winter below. The abundance and variety of these celebrations highlight a basic human need that has run across the centuries and around the globe to mark the darkest days with messages of light and hope. We hope that learning more about these different celebrations will bring hope and light to you and your family!
Celebrating the Solstice
“On Solstice Eve, just before dusk, we turn off all of the electric lights (except for our Holiday lights) and light a big candle. From this candle, we light other candles all over the house. As we take turns lighting candles we say what we are grateful for or something that we hope for in the coming year. Then we have a special meal that does not need to be cooked. For us, this is usually yummy cheeses, meats, crackers, and fruit, with a dessert treat of some kind. We have stockings with gifts that we usually open on this night. We blow out all candles except the big one before we go to bed. Whenever we are able, our big candle that burns all night is lit from the peace light in Bethlehem.
The next day we open gifts, as one would on Christmas Day, then go on a hike and collect items from the woods to create a natural altar for the mantle. This whole day is candlelit until sundown when we turn on electric lights again.
This celebration is a celebration of the return of light, as this is the shortest day of the year, and from here the days will get longer. It is traditionally a time spent with family, and for us, in appreciation of nature. Several cultures have Solstice celebrations. In India, it is Makar Sankranti. In Iran, it is known as Yaldā Night. In Germany, it is celebrated as Yule. In Rome, it was Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. In East Asia, it is Dongzhi (solar term). It is a beautiful, peaceful, family day!” ~ The Scotton Family
“In our family, we’re still learning about the Jewish Festival of Lights, which is a story that dates back to the Roman Era more than 2,000 years ago. After the Romans destroyed the Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem, one vase of purified oil remained undestroyed, enough to last one night. The miracle of Hanukkah is that one day’s worth of oil lasted for eight days and nights.
Each night we light another candle, which symbolizes each night that the oil lasted. The tradition for our family includes lighting a candle, singing the blessings, playing with Dreidels and Gelt, having a special treat each night, and of course, opening a gift each of the eight days.” ~ The Pessin Family
“Deepavali, commonly known as Diwali, literally means ‘row of lights’ in Sanskrit. The significance of Diwali is one of hope and the victory of knowledge (light) over ignorance (darkness). It is a time of celebration where families come together to exchange gifts and sweet treats and light up colorful lamps around their homes (ornamental candles). Fireworks are everywhere!
Our tradition begins with starting the day with prayers and a holy bath, receiving new clothes (Indian ethnic wear) and treats gifted by parents/grandparents, followed by a gathering of families for feast and fireworks throughout the day.” ~ The Subramanian Family
You can learn more about Diwali, thanks to the Jani Family, here!
Celebrating Christmas with a Christingle
“If you are looking for a simple addition to your Christmas celebrations, we’d like to offer up Christingle. Originally from Moravia, this easy-to-create symbolic use of orange and a candle makes for an interesting conversation with children about the Christian faith as they create their Christingle. The end result is delightful. Wait until evening, then light your Christingle candle, switch off the electric lights, and sing a few carols. You can learn more about Christingle here.” ~ The Dickens Family
Whether you are lighting the Christmas tree, the Menorah, your Diwali lights, burning a Yule log, or following a different tradition to bring light into the dark at this time of year, we wish you a warm and fun time!