As the days grow shorter with less sunlight, people around the world have ways in which we celebrate our faith with light.
Diwali is a five-day celebration held in November this year. It is the Hindu festival of lights that celebrates the New Year. The word “Diwali” means “rows of lighted lamps. During Diwali, people light hundreds of small oil lamps, called diyas, and place them around their homes. Firecrackers light the sky, dispelling darkness and ignorance and spreading the radiance of love and wisdom, in Hindu symbolism.
Diwali is also celebrated by Sikhs, who mark the occasion when Guru Ji obtained the release of 52 kings and princes who had been unjustly imprisoned. Good had overcome evil and light overcame the darkness.
Bodhi Day was on December 8th, and marks the day when Buddha attained enlightenment. Often, Buddhists will string multi-colored lights throughout their homes to symbolize the many paths to enlightenment. It is also traditional to light a candle each night for 30 nights beginning on Bodhi Day.
Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and began this year at sundown on December 8th. Hanukkah commemorates efforts to restore the Temple in Jerusalem. During the restoration, some people found there was only enough oil to light the lamp for one night, but miraculously, it burned for eight.
Christmas on December 25th, celebrated by Christians, is also associated with light, with some of its customs deriving from pre-Christian religions’ recognition of the Winter Solstice in areas that adopted Christianity.
Kwanzaa, beginning on December 26th and ending on January 1, is not a religious holiday, but for many it has spiritual overtones. Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrated by some African Americans and is centered around seven principals; Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Seven candles represent the seven principals.
As we near the end of the year, we can take time to pause for reflection and for planning for 2013. In that spirit, we offer suggestions for ten ways to bring light into your life, and the life of your religious community, in order to lighten your footprint.
- Caulk windows, doors, and anywhere air leaks in or out. Do not caulk around furnace exhaust pipes or your water heater.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with a compact fluorescent ones. This will not only save energy, it will save you money.
- Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly.
- Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean.
- Defrost refrigerators and freezers before ice becomes ¼ inch thick.
- Try going without meat for at least one night per week. Buy organic, locally-grown foods.
- When you use your washing machine, make sure it has a full load of clothes. Use cold water for the rinse cycle.
- Unplug electronics, battery chargers, and other equipment when not in use. Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.
- Make your own holiday gifts. This could turn into a fun tradition!
- Enable “power management” on all computers and turn them off at night. Laptops use up to 90% less energy than desktop models.
Happy Holidays and peace to all.