Canadian Holidays: COMING OF THE LIGHT

Canadian Holidays: COMING OF THE LIGHT

David Watts 7 July 2003

Canadians have come to think of summer as Festival Time, yet our biggest cluster of celebrations occurs with the approach of winter.

From Ramadan to Chinese New Year, Diwali to Hanukkah, Advent to Epiphany, is a spread that includes five world religions and cultures shared by most of Earth’s peoples.

In fact, one of the Planet’s biggest multicultural festivals falls on December 25. Most of the practices now associated with Christmas have nothing to do with its allegedly Christian origins.

Fertility poles came indoors as Christmas trees. Christmas cards come from the country that gave us the postage stamp. Even the date it’s celebrated comes from the Roman Saturnalia festival.

December 25 was the point far enough beyond the winter solstice when the Romans realized that the days were no longer getting shorter, and the light was coming back.

Christmas, Hanukkah and Diwali are all light festivals.

The five days of Diwali, which comes at the interface of October and November, symbolize an end to the dark of ignorance, and is marked by rows of lights—oil lamps—in each Hindu home

The eight days of Hanukkah commemorate the dedication of the Jewish people and their second Temple, and its lighting by a tiny amount of oil in the sacred lamp when oil was in short supply.

The twelve days of Christmas, ending with the visit of the Magi, mark the birth of Jesus as the One who was the Light of the World, come to deliver his people from darkness.

Even the month of Ramadan can be seen symbolizing inner light. During ten days of that month the Prophet Muhammad received the revelation of the Koran as he meditated in the desert.

The peoples among whom these festivals originated—the Hindus, Christians, Jews and Muslims all initially lived north of the Equator. December was their month of maximum darkness.

Canada is farther north than any of these peoples lived. In our high arctic the darkness lasts for six months. Even farther south we feel its effects and long for the return of the light.

Canadians enjoy another light in our winter skies, one that is unique to lands near Earth’s poles.

In addition to the light of day and lessor light of moon and stars, we have the Aurora Borealis.

It comes from an interaction of Earth’s electromagnetic field and energy outflowing from the Sun

When solar activity is high, Earth’s field is stimulated, producing light shows: wisps, sometimes an entire sky, greeny-white, sometimes streaks from the orange and red end of the spectrum.

A meeting of the earthly and the cosmic, a mirror of the spectrum of peoples and energies that make up our country and planet, a sign of unseen activity—a light in the months of darkness.

Let us remember the words of the forebears and founders of our feasts: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…Let there be light…You are the light of the world.”

May we in Canada be bearers of that light in this time of Earth’s awakening.