What Brings You Joy?

Quck answer

What makes you light up inside? It’s the things that bring you joy, passion, and excitement. It could be pursuing your hobbies, spending time with loved ones, achieving personal goals, or making a difference in the world. It’s about finding what truly makes you happy and fulfilled. When you engage in activities or pursue interests that align with your values and bring you a sense of purpose, you feel a powerful inner spark. It’s important to prioritize these things in your life and make time for them, as they are essential for your overall well-being and happiness.

As winter approaches, you may observe various transformations in your surroundings. In the northern hemisphere, trees shed their leaves, the weather gets colder, and the days become shorter while the nights become longer.

The darkness can be captivating, especially when illuminated by a sky filled with stars. During the fall and winter seasons, people have more time to gaze at the sky. The lights that brighten the long nights can appear almost magical. This might be why light holds significant symbolism in many winter holidays.

Does light hold the same meaning for everyone? Not necessarily. In fact, holidays that celebrate light come from diverse cultures and religions. However, light often represents the concept of good triumphing over evil.

Which winter holidays celebrate light? One example is Christmas. In Christianity, a shining star is a prominent symbol of the story behind this holiday. For many, Christmas wouldn’t feel complete without a decorated tree adorned with twinkling lights and a star on top. Additionally, people enjoy viewing light displays that embellish windows and houses.

Another example is the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Some refer to it as the “Festival of Lights.” It commemorates the miracle of a single day’s worth of oil keeping a lamp burning for eight days. To celebrate, individuals light the menorah, which consists of eight Hanukkah candles and a Shamash candle used to ignite the others. Families may also recite blessings, sing songs, and exchange gifts.

Light also holds a special significance in Kwanzaa, a holiday that honors Black American culture. Each evening between December 26 and January 1, a family member lights candles on a kinara, a candle holder. This is followed by a discussion of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Those who follow the Hindu faith celebrate Diwali in October or November each year. It is marked by family gatherings, sparkling clay lamps, and joyful fireworks. The holiday often includes strings of electric lights and bonfires. It is also common for individuals of Sikh or Jain faith, particularly those with Indian ancestry, to observe Diwali.

At first glance, Yule may seem like a celebration of darkness. However, it is actually a time for those who practice Pagan religions to welcome the return of the Sun. After the Winter Solstice, which occurs on the longest night of the year (between December 20 and 23), the days gradually become longer. Pagans celebrate by lighting candles, feasting, and coming together with loved ones.

In North America, the Zuni and Hopi peoples also observe the Winter Solstice. These indigenous cultures have been celebrating this day with ceremonies and feasts for thousands of years. These rituals are meant to signify the return of their sun god, who brings longer days and shorter nights. In fact, the Hopi Tribe holds a 16-day celebration during this time.

Of course, many cultures celebrate the New Year with light, especially through fireworks. While numerous New Year celebrations occur on the last day of December, some take place on different dates. For instance, Tet is the Vietnamese New Year. Following the lunar calendar, it falls in January or February. People celebrate by making offerings for friendship and family, as well as lighting joss sticks on the family altar multiple times a day.

There are many other holidays that use light as a symbol, and they don’t all occur during winter! One example is Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan in Islam and usually takes place between April and May. Can you think of any other holidays like this?

What is it about light that makes these events so special? Maybe it’s the simple beauty of candles or their resemblance to stars. The night sky has inspired millions of people, and perhaps candles and other forms of light inspire us in the same way.

How does light inspire you? Have you ever been moved by a sunrise or captivated by a vibrant orange sunset? Have you ever been mesmerized by the illuminated skyline of a city at night? Ponder on it. What is it about these lights that brighten your inner self?

Give It a Try

Are you ready to illuminate your world? Gather a few of your brightest friends and family members to join you in exploring one or more of the following activities:

  • Winter holidays are celebrated by diverse and unique cultures worldwide. However, they still share many similarities. Choose two celebrations mentioned in this Wonder and conduct your own research with the help of a family member. Then, use this Canva template to showcase the similarities and differences you discover.
  • Do any special holidays or family traditions make you feel radiant inside? Choose one that holds significance for you. What about it brings you joy? What is your favorite aspect of this holiday or tradition? Do you have any cherished memories associated with these occasions? Write a letter to a friend or family member explaining what makes this holiday or tradition special to you.
  • Have you ever wondered why nights become longer in winter? Learn more about the solstices from Scholastic. After reading, summarize your newfound knowledge for a friend or family member.

Sources of Wonder

  • https://www.shondaland.com/live/family/a34874979/a-look-at-the-most-widely-celebrated-winter-holidays/ (accessed 30 Nov. 2021)
  • https://www.msichicago.org/explore/whats-here/exhibits/christmas-around-the-world/trees-and-traditions/holidays-of-light (accessed 30 Nov. 2021)

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