Waiting For The Return Of The Light
Written by Maeven Eller-Five
December finds us waiting for the return of the light. It is the reason for most of the holidays celebrated in the month. As winter grows colder and darker, the days become shorter. It is a time when most of us start looking longingly for the return of the Suns longer days.
Many different holidays are celebrating the return of the light here in the states and beyond. Each has been born of traditions from long ago. Recognizing the diversity and similarities
found in these traditions can bring all of us a better understanding of them.
The December Holidays
Hanukkah 2018 falls at Nightfall on December 2 and lasts until Nightfall on December 10th. The eight-day “festivals of lights,” is observed with the lighting of the menorah each of the eight nights.
The word Hanukkah means “dedication,” as it celebrates the purification and rededication to the Second Holy Temple. Hanukkah honors the night the lamp stayed lit for eight days and nights. It hearkens back to the 2nd century when the Jews had reclaimed their temple. They had only enough oil to burn in the lamps for one night.
Saint Nicholas Day
Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th here in the states. Those who observe would set out stockings, shoes, or bags, to receive their usually small gifts, from Saint Nick.
The celebration surrounds the story of Nicholas of Myra who was a Bishop in Greece during the 4th century. He was known for his gifting to others by placing coins in their shoes.
Saturnalia is celebrated on December 17th through the 23rd, originating in ancient Rome. It honors the god Saturn. It is considered a very festive and sometimes a wild time.
The holiday is often marked with gift-giving and a great deal of merrymaking. The origins of this holiday have a great deal to do with agricultural teaching. The celebration has a great deal to do with seed-growing.
Yule, also known as Winter Solstice, or midwinters, fall on December 21st. They are observed by multitudes of cultures around the world. The origins of Yule and midwinters are from ancient Europe.
As an astronomical event, most of the ways it is celebrated is by waiting on the lights return. During their wait there are festivities, feasting, and song. Burning a Yule Log was hoped to reignite the Sun so that it might shine again. People still come together to share in the hope the light returns.
Christmas falls on December 24th – 25th and is a holiday honoring the birth of the Christ Child. It is commemorated by billions of people around the world and is one of the most recognized of all holidays of all.
The celebration honors Jesus’ parents as they arrived in Bethlehem, without a place to lay their heads. Mary was heavy with the Christ Child. With no room in the inn, they finally found shelter in a stable offered by the inn keep. There, in humble beginnings, baby Jesus
was born. Because of this, many Christians put up a nativity scene at their homes every year.
Kwanzaa starts on December 26th and runs through January the 1st. It is celebrated around the world by those of African descent. It is a holiday meant to honor the best of what it is to be African. Kwanzaa was envisioned and manifested by Dr. Maulana Karenga. A professor and the Chairman of Black Studies at California State University, he began Kwanzaa in 1966 after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. He did so with hope in his heart.
This year marks the 52nd year Kwanzaa has been celebrated. Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday but rather one that celebrates the culture of African-Americans. It honors the values of the ancient Africans. This teaches African-Americans more about their Ancestors. In the United States, it was intended to inspire those seeking a cultural change for themselves.
New Years Day
New Years Day is observed on December 31st and January 1st. The is the time of year to honor the start of a new year all around the planet. It has become a time known for evaluating our lives and our future hopes. Frequently this date is when people make new health and life goals.
This holiday is celebrated on December 31st, by gathering with friends while waiting for the hour of Midnight to arrive. On New Year’s day, we typically eat certain foods. Those foods vary by region. Some of the favorites are Black Eyed Peas, rice, and cabbage, to name a few.
No matter who we are, or what we celebrate, we all share the same thing. We share the human need to gather together in the dark times of the year. It gives us hope that the light will return, and we will all be better for it.