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
As we head indoors with the dimming of daylight hours, many of us light candles and seek the warmth of a welcoming hearth. Sometimes a soft glowing light can seem even brighter in midst of darkness. This time indoors offers a chance to pause from our rush-filled days. Stopping for even a moment or two can help to reset our intentions or transition from chaos to calm; it is a chance to check-in and honor our own body/mind/spirit. In the spirit of the Buddhist practice of Loving Kindness, starting with love of self is a required first step. Each one of us has unique gifts that are needed to be acknowledged and shared in this world. In these times, now more than ever, we all needing to show up with whatever we have and who we are, and shine as bright as the moment will allow.
George Bernard Shaw said, Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
Diversity through the Season
Throughout the history of humankind, people have gathered this time of year around flame-lit candles and fire pits, in these dark and short days, to celebrate and honor the passing of the old year and welcoming the new one. And these gatherings, more often than not, have included music. While merchants have primarily packaged this month to be about December 25th with Christmas and Santa Clause, there are actually quite a number of holidays celebrated by people from a variety of ethnicities and traditions.
The following is a selection of my favorite songs that accompany some of these diverse holidays:
December 1-24, Advent (Christian): O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Pentatonix
December 13, Santa Lucia (Swedish Christian)
December 21, Winter Solstice (Pagan) - Jethro Tull Ring Out Solstice Bells 1976
December 23 - 28, Hanukkah (Jewish), 8 Candles - Casey & Araya, written by Malvina Reynolds
December 25, Christmas (Christian), Wexford Carol - Alison Krause and Yo Yo Ma
December 26-January 1, Kwanzaa (African American), A Kwanzaa Song - Lovely Hoffman
December 31/January 1, New Years, Auld Lang Syne, - Amy Lee
Never underestimate the power and magic of pausing in our busy lives to light candles,
sing songs, and spend time with family and friends.
Try a Little Kindness
While many of us have so much to be grateful for, many are not so fortunate. Perhaps we can light some extra candles for those who are out in the cold with hopes that they can find warmth on these wintry nights. Even better to add to this act of kindness with donations to local food banks and other services.
A few years ago I sang this Fred Small song, Not in Our Town, with the Open Circle Singers at the Whidbey Institute. The sentiment of this song seems to be even more poignant at this moment in our country and world.
As we reflect on changes we want to make in the new year, I vote for each one of us to try a little more kindness in our interactions and even our thoughts about others. I realize this may be especially challenging with the upcoming political scene.
Do not underestimate what a kind word or a simple smile can provide to another person. Whether that person is on the street and asking for help or someone with whom we share our lives at work or home. We have choices, even through our conflicts, in how we share our thoughts and emotions. If the first words I say make it so another cannot hear the rest of my thought, perhaps I can start with a kinder word. It might be that adding a bit of honey really is preferable to vinegar.
If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher….Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. ― Pema Chodron
This Little Light
So whatever your tradition this time of year, consider lighting two extra candles at some point during the season. One to honor the unique light within you, and the second for how you will take that light out into the world.