It is the season of reverence for light and lights, not to mention something called the light. For inspiration on this dark December eve, I’m sitting by a roaring hot fire, throwing plenty of light and warmth to guide me. The days are dark: I awake in the dark, and barely get the day’s tasks done before dark once again settles upon the land.
It is no wonder that from dark days are born celebrations of light. Hanukkah has begun for Jews around the world, an eight-day Festival of Lights celebrating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Using the menorah, one candle is lit for each day of the holiday. Kwanzaa, a multi-day celebration for people of African descent, involves lighting the candles of the kinara.
The light of the Star of Bethlehem led the magi to the manger and the infant Jesus. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is a Spanish Catholic tradition of lighting farolitos, simple lanterns made with paper bags and candles, which line the walls and roofs of houses in the region.
Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a festival of light around the winter solstice, and people in the Scandinavian region celebrated Yule or Juul, when a log was burned to honor the god Thor.
Winter solstice feasts by people of many spiritual faiths often involve fires and a conversation around the changing seasons and the rebirth of the light, as the solstice marks the beginning of a time of increasing daylight in the northern hemisphere. Festivities range from lighting candles inside the home to building raging bonfires outside.
How do you celebrate the season?
Who will you be with?
Here in France, the holiday conversation is all about who you will be with for the holidays. There are some decorations, and my little town has strings of lights swaying between medieval buildings. There are tacky Christmas cards, although I haven’t yet heard Jingle Bells in a store. There will be a simple exchange of gifts. It’s France, so there’s much to be said about what food will be served, how to find the best sources for various ingredients, the best preparation for that special dish.
But I love that the celebration seems to largely revolve around being with those you love. And that’s the entire conversation. I like that very much indeed.
For years, I’ve been on the prowl for interesting or unusual holiday music, and this year did not disappoint. In my searches, I found some really wild stuff; for an example, do a search for Yogi Yorgesson singing “Yingle Bells,” (which I did not buy).
However, I did find some tasty numbers to add to my playlist this year, and here are a few:
Gabriel’s Message, Sting
Star of Wonder, Tori Amos
Ocho Kandelikas, Pink Martini
Frosty the Snowman, Cocteau Twins
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Cat Power