It’s the time of the twinkly lights again… a beautiful time worth driving slowly through town and savoring the wonderful illuminations from house to house. But especially the lights in some town centers which are turned into a veritable fairyland this season. Many thanks to my town’s merchants and stores, as well as the town’s workers who string up the millions of twinkly lights for us to enjoy again this year. When the Lord said,”Let there be light.” I like to think he did have the beauty of the night in mind. Just think back a hundred years or so ago, when the only thing to be seen on a black moonless night was a candle in a distant window or a dim hearth fire. It’s easy to understand why a Christmas tree with lighted candles was such a big event, because for some short moments there WAS light. Gas lights and whale oil helped a bit, but before Edison’s electric the nights were dark. The Winter Solstice (December 21) is the shortest day of the year. It gets dark a little after 4 o’clock. And dreary, especially when the sky is grey and colorless. Will the spring goddess of the harvest ever come again? Most religions, particularly pagan ones, feared she might not. So they organized hopeful holidays and lit candles to conquer the long darkness. Customs and tales were created to comfort us . We all know Christmas and Chanukah, but there are many others not so well known. One is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which lasts 4 or 5 days, and celebrates good over evil. So many people light candles that their light is actually visible from space. It looks like a map of India. In Lyon, France they have a Fete de Lumieres on December 8th, and every window must have a light. It seems that in 1643, the townsfolk promised the Fete as a tribute to Mary if they were spared from the plague. They’ve turned it into a nice tourist festival these days. The idea has been copied by many cities and towns, who also have Festivals of Light for visitors. In your own town, drive around and look at all the yards of creative homeowners. Enjoy the eternal icicles (which can not savor the warm kiss of the morning sun), the round cheerful Santas illuminated from within, jolly reindeer who never seem to fly very high, billions of tiny lights , and ethereal angels who guard our door. As you drive through be surrounded by all those magical twinkly lights that will protect you from the winter solstice. The winter night garden has become a cheerful thing of beauty that staves off the goblins of darkness.
Credit: Ruth S. Foster