Two days before Christmas I had the pleasure of speaking before my Rotary Club here on Sanibel about various holiday traditions. I titled my talk "The Season of Lights" and focused on Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa.
Hanukkah, I reminded my listeners, is all about the ancient story of the Maccabees and their struggle to free Jerusalem from religious oppression. I told the story of the oil that miraculously lasted for eight days. I pointed out the history behind the Hanukkah game known as dreidel (it served as a decoy when children were studying the scriptures their oppressors had outlawed.) And I sang the wonderful Peter Yarrow song, "Light One Candle."
Christmas, the most familiar of the three to my listeners, also focuses on light. It was, afterall, set during December due to winter solstice! I spoke of the use of Advent candles, and the traditional Christian notion that Jesus is the Light of the World. I closed that section with one of my favorite carols, "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella."
Kwanzaa, the most recent of the celebrations, is a cultural festival, rather than a religious festival, and came into existence out of a desire on the part of African-American leaders to reinstill a sense of identity and roots. The seven candles of the Kwanzaa celebration emphasize virtues like unity and self-determination. I sang the old spiritual "This Little Light of Mine" to finish my presentation.
"Each of these celebrations," I told my audience,"reminds us that we can bring light into a dark world. Each reminds us to keep the lights of freedom, love and heritage burning. When ever we reach out to one another we do just that!"
Later I happened to be driving behind a car from Virginia. It had one of those specialty license plates. This one was dedicated to preserving old lighthouses. It said "Keep the Lights Shining." That, in a nutshell, was my message to my civic club. And it is my wish for you as the year draws to a close. Keep the lights shining!