Thursday, February 22, 2024

Column: Festivals illuminate our holiday season

by Carol HoloboffCalico Pen
| December 3, 2008 11:00 PM

Humankind has struggled with darkness in his world and in his soul.

Most of us were afraid of the dark when we were little. Night-lights and flashlights were our friends.

Even today with the world illuminated in nearly every corner, there are those who begin to develop symptoms of a disease called SAD (seasonal affective disorder). The effects of the shorter days and longer nights trigger feelings of depression, lethargy, fatigue and other problems. Treatment includes a light box that emits full spectrum light much like the sun.

The winter solstice has been celebrated in many ways for thousands of years, perhaps beginning with the aboriginal people who watched with fear as the sun sank further and further into the sky each noon. Then they began to notice a slight elevation of the sun’s path a few days after the solstice. Hope was restored and the celebrations began!

Imagine man’s excitement when he discovered fire and the interior of the cave lit up.

We humans have found the “light” in many different ways. Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, brings light into the home at sundown for eight nights as the menorah candles are kindled. Kwanzaa, the African-American holiday, uses a candleholder called a Kinara, which holds seven candles that are lit each evening for seven days.

Diwali, the Festival of Lights celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists, light wicks in pots of oil to signify good over evil. Christians have the Star of Bethlehem, halos of light, and their “Light of the World” – Jesus.

In my neighborhood, the old men are stringing lights on rooftops, trees, fences and even their garbage cans in competition with each other to have the best holiday yard on the block. December celebrations, no matter the reason for the season, include light in many forms. We watch with holiday joy as the White House tree is lit and many of us will attend the community tree lighting.

We will load our pajama-clad kids with sugarplums waiting to dance in their dreams into the car for the annual drive through town to look at the lights. It seems the “Festival of Lights” takes on different meanings for different folks but whatever your reason, may you find the light that brings goodwill toward men and peace on earth.

(Carol Holoboff is a former Libby resident who now writes out of Great Falls).