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SANDRA CAREY CODY ON: WINTER LIGHT

December 7, 2009

This time of year the world seems filled with extra light. There are candles in my windows. And in my neighbor’s window, a menorah–more candles. The shops are full of decorations in every shape, color and configuration imaginable and most of the decorations feature light in some form.

Thanksgiving is just past and, already, we’re knee-deep into preparation for Christmas–or Hanukkah–or–Kwanzaa–or–Ramadan–or (some holiday unknown to me, but precious to someone).  Mid-winter is a time of holidays, each with a distinct set of customs and a unique manner of observance. Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are celebrated with special meals and the giving of gifts. The food served and the gifts given vary according to the tradition being honored, but in each they are chosen to remind celebrants of a common heritage. Ramadan follows the opposite path by observing the special time with fasting instead of feasting. And yet, even in this completely different tradition, there runs a common thread. All of the holidays involve at least some level of introspection. Underlying all the festivities, all the customs, both merry and solemn, there is an awareness of the need for understanding, a call to examine our innermost selves.

Many of our celebrations throughout the year involve light (colored lights, candles, crackling logs, fireworks) and this is especially true of those that come in midwinter when night falls so quickly. Maybe it’s because these holidays are so close to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and we feel a need to light the darkness. Are our candles really symbols of the light we find when we seek within and our need to proclaim it to the world? I feel sure that they are and it occurs to me that this need to proclaim is akin to the force that compels writers to write, painters to paint and composers to compose. It’s the artist’s need to illuminate, to direct a beacon that shines so brightly we cannot fail to recognize and then to proclaim the common humanity that lies beneath our differences.

So let’s all light candles–millions of candles of diverse size and shape and color–to celebrate our commonality. And the darkness will vanish.

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