29 November 2009

First Sunday of Advent

This time of the year has always been about light against the darkness.

Christian followers are familiar with the Bible verse spoken by Jesus that states

"I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

In honor of His coming, we place candles in windows and lights on Christmas trees. In Irish and Italian families, it was common to leave a candle in the window on Christmas Eve for the Holy Family. Latino families light farolitos, sometimes called luminaria, candles in paper bags or in stone containers, to light their paths. Other Christian cultures have light symbolism.

But other cultures also emphasize light. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah (or Chanukah) features a candelabra called a menorah which symbolizes a miracle: one day's worth of anointed oil lasted for eight days. The African-American holiday Kwanzaa uses candles to symbolize life-affirming traits. Pagan cultures lit candles and bonfires on the shortest night of the year, the winter solstice.

In honor of the season of light, when I start the year's Christmas decorating, what I put up are the window candles. Our color is blue because as a child I always loved going by blue-lit homes: they appeared so ethereal. I remember one house on Budlong Road which had a young tree out front, and for years the owners decorated the tree in blue lights. I couldn't wait for the next Christmas to see "the blue tree." Alas, either the tree grew too large for the owner to decorate or the family moved, and the custom stopped. There are two sets of three candles downstairs in the library, and two sets of five candles upstairs in the bedrooms, in the only front windows we have. The two dining room windows have single candles with color-changing bulbs in them. These are such a delight to watch.

On the first Sunday of Advent, I also put up the door wreaths. Every door in the house has a wreath or a swag in a fall motif, which is our home's motif all year round—except at Christmas! Fall wreaths are exchanged for Christmas-themed wreaths: natural-looking ones of cedar and berries or pine cones and branches or berries and twigs, or some with Christmas frippery, and at least one bottle-brush wreath with little red and green balls and a net red bow that I fell in love with. There's a mistletoe ball on the entryway to the hall that leads to the bedroom [wink!] and a smaller sprig downstairs going to the library. Some garland is around that entryway and also to the door that goes to the deck. A little fall decoration on the deck door has been exchanged for a diamond-shaped wreath with two cardinals and red bells that declares "Every birdie welcome." (The bird feeders are on the deck.)

I also put out the Christmas banner on the porch and the wreath on the door. Alas, the light string on the wreath isn't working again. Every year I get a new string and by the following year it burns out.

It would have been nice to put the rest of the lights out, but James' knee is not yet up to the task. It didn't feel much like Christmas, either...65°F today! Maybe next weekend. I'm feeling itchy now after already passing at least a dozen different homes with Christmas lights. Several people had them up before Thanksgiving. And the city of Smyrna has been putting up their Christmas display for several weeks.

In the meantime, enjoy all the lights of Midwinter!

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