At this time of the year, people celebrate many festivals having to do with light. It’s an old, old custom, probably as long as there have been human beings, that at the time of the solstice when there is the least light and most dark, people seek light and hope that the days get longer again. For Christians, we have Christmas when we celebrate the coming of the Light of the World. Jews have Hanukkah, when the menorahs are lit, Hindus have Dwali, a festival of lights, African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, lighting candles. A lesser known festival to many is Posadas, celebrated in Mexico and various other places. Posadas means Lodging.
For the nine nights preceding Christmas, there is a procession of people with candles. Either a man and a woman dress up as Mary and Joseph, or pictorial representations of them are carried. The procession stops before a different house each night. There the people outside sing, asking to be let in. The “inn-keepers” refuse, until after singing back and forth, the procession is finally let in, where they kneel and pray around a Nativity scene. However, Posada parties are not only marked by traditional rituals but are also filled with cheerful socializing, authentic food, and fun for the entire family, including a special Christmas drink and a piñata filled with candy for the children.
What makes this interesting is that the custom was started by Spanish missionaries in the sixteenth century to replace the Aztec solstice festival celebrating Huitzilopochtli (pronounced wee-tsee-loh-poch’-tlee (click here to hear it)) who was the Aztec sun god. Rather than try to wipe out the festival, the church co-opted it and made it a Christian celebration.
Whatever your custom, I hope you are celebrating light at this time of year, whether that’s hoping for the sun’s return, or enjoying candles in the long evening hours.
Quotes about light
All I know to do is to light the candle that has been given to me.–Fred Rogers
As the calendar approaches the year’s darkest night, reflect on those who have brought you light. How have you yourself brought a glimmer of light into someone else’s darkness?–Kathy Coffey
The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.–Felix Adler
Hope, like the gleaming taper’s light
Adorns and cheers our way
And still, as darker grows the night,
Emits a brighter ray.–Oliver Goldsmith
I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.–Og Mandino
If we pause to peer into the beauty of natural darkness … we’re soon reminded of its riches. If the light didn’t fade, how could we appreciate a sunset, or the glimmer of the first evening star? How could we enjoy a deep and restorative sleep? How could a seed ever germinate?–Brian Draper
Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening’s forehead o’er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.–Emma Lazarus
The Sun will rise and set regardless. What we choose to do with the light while it’s here is up to us. Journey wisely.–Alexandra Elle
There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.–Edith Wharton
There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility and our hearts to love life.–John O’Donohue
Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.–Buddha
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