In continuing our theme of looking into foreign Christmas Traditions, I am reminded of a scene from one of the Frozen shorts from Disney. A scene where Olaf goes around to every single house in the village and asks each of them to share a Christmas tradition with him. While we already covered Christmas lights in the last article, did you know that light is also used in different ways by different cultures? Indeed it is rather intriguing when you look into it. Overall the symbolism of light changes, to mean different things at different tables around this time of year. So let’s look at some of the interesting diversity our world has to offer around the happiest time of the year.
First of all, the idea of lighting up a space to make it warmer predates Christianity and all other cultures. The winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) tends to have a lot of meaning to ancient cultures, so why not celebrate lighting up the darkest day of the year in the best way that we can? In fact, early Christians thought the same thing. The idea of lighting small candles to light up a Christmas tree was not only a fire hazard, but also a lovely way to share the warmth in a family home. How they managed to do this without burning down their house, I will never know. Regardless, decorating the Christmas tree with lights spread all throughout Europe and eventually to the United States. As we all well know, the lighting of the Christmas decorations is one of the most special times there is.
In Japan, people have a similar idea. It is tradition to light the streets in the winter season with paper lanterns floating along the cities and countryside. This season is known as “Akari” to all who partake in it. This lantern idea was also picked up by other nearby Asian cultures, including Chinese cultures. The festive display of red lanterns would truly be a sight to behold. In addition to that it is common to put tiny paper lanterns on your window sills as well as light up your shrubbery and whatever other vegetation you may have in your front lawn. A tradition that is similar in many ways to the light shows that we have here in the States.
Another common tradition can be found in the homes of Sweden. With the lighting of candlesticks and placing them in the windows throughout a home to burn through the night. This is actually a tradition that can be observed right here in Kansas. For those of you who love exploring small towns, consider paying a visit to Lindsborg Kansas. Otherwise known as “Little Sweden”, the small town loves to show off its Swedish heritage with all of the lovely Swedish festivities. If you do go, look for Advent stars, ones that are typically placed in windows of Swedish homes, but also ones that line the streets of Lindsborg.
In the Southern Hemisphere, We see many different traditions, including those of South Africa. In South Africa, Christmas falls during the summer season. Many people celebrate this holiday by decorating their homes and neighborhoods with colorful lights and colorful decorations. One famous celebration that you might know of is called the Festival of Lights in Cape Town, this festival attracts many visitors during this time of year. This idea of light festivities is also shared by Australia. Decorating their homes and gardens with the Yuletide fun.
Overall there are many different traditions and uses of light throughout all different cultures of the world, each one of them just as special and important as the last.