I come from the United States, where this is the season of Thanksgiving. For my readers outside the U.S., please know that I’m not trying to force an American holiday on you! Rather than thinking of this as a day off work for eating a lot and watching football on TV, I choose to focus on it being a time to give thanks, and that is something that all of us can participate in, no matter the country, and truthfully, no matter the season.
I think of this holiday as an opportunity to reflect on the great gift of love, such as the shared love of family and friends or the love a person has for her town or her country. And for me, it is a time to express gratitude for the blessings in my life.
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.