What Kwanzaa, Christmas, and Hanukah Have In Common
“When we are surrounded by the darkness of the short days of winter, we bring light into our lives to remind us about the upcoming spring.”
Today, Friday, the 26th day, the next day after the celebration of Christmas, and two days after the last day of Hanukah is another holiday. Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966-67. The week-long celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture. One of the traditions is to light seven candles in a candleholder called a kinara. The tradition is similar to lighting candles on Hanukah (which is one day longer than Kwanzaa). On January 1st, the end of the holiday, there is a tradition to give gifts. Many celebrate this holiday in addition to Christmas.
As we can see, the obvious similarity between the three holidays is the giving of presents. All three were originated by the decree of men (unlike some of the holidays decreed by God in the Torah). But there is something else—last week I wrote about “Where To Find The Light”.
What really unites all three remarkable events is light. During the eight days of Hanukah, also known as the “Festival of Light”, many Jewish households and even public places like Union Square in San Francisco, are adorned by the candelabra called a Hanukiah and every day during the holiday, oil lamps or candles are lit (some use electrical lights).
Before and during Christmas, people decorate the inside and outside of their homes with beautiful lights. When I grew up in Riga, we decorated a fir tree with candles and other decorations to celebrate New Year’s. Candle light is used to celebrate Kwanzaa. Since candle light is only visible at night, their purpose is obvious. Thus the celebration of every holiday has a clear mission—to bring light to brighten our lives. As a reminder that it does not matter how dark it is outside, we can always have light.
In ancient times, the source of the light was oil. But oil itself cannot bring any light. Nor can beeswax. What all of these energy containing materials need is human contribution—the wick.
Throughout the human existence, we perfected the use of the sources of light. But we also have to remember that too much light can destroy our wellbeing. Many fires were caused by candles on the fir trees. When the first light (I wrote about last week) was created by God (according to the Torah), it was too much for the humans to handle. Therefore, it was replaced with the sun and the moon. However, the intrinsic knowledge of how to bring light to our lives remained (throughout the holidays). We can celebrate everyday by looking for the source and bringing it out to brighten the lives of others.
The end of the year celebrations are filled with beautiful decorations in and out of our homes. Many use very elaborate color themes, which obviously can be only visible at night. I hope you enjoy some of my light interpretations.