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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Celebrating the Light of Consciousness: Holiday Celebrations Across Cultures

Dec 06, 2018 12:19AM ● By Janis Farmer

Many cultures celebrate the return of the light during the darkest months each year. In prehistoric cultures, return of the light represented safety, warmth and the possibility of continued survival.

Individuals and cultures of Northern European descent have celebrated winter solstice through the centuries. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights celebrated every autumn, symbolizes the eventual spiritual victory of light, goodness and wisdom. Those of the Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah, an eight-day Festival of Lights, remembering and celebrating freedom from oppression. Christmas, and its Hispanic counterpart Las Posadas, celebrate the birth of Jesus and the return of the light of the divine to the world.

The Chinese winter solstice celebration,
Dong Zhi, welcomes the return of the longer days and declares increasing goodness and positive outcomes in the upcoming year. Iranians celebrate the triumph of Mithra the Sun God over darkness in an ancient all-night ceremony called Shab-e Yalda, which involves bonfires and sharing across the community, generosity and reading the writings of the 14th century mystic Persian poet Hafiz. The Zuni and Hopi peoples also celebrate the returning of the light with ritual, dancing, bonfires and ceremony.

Other cultures use this period of change from darkness to light to highlight a remembrance of desired values or practices. In Japan, Toji welcomes the return of the sun with huge bonfires in farming communities, and reminds individuals of their own practices that increase health and good fortune. A more modern celebration, Kwanzaa, is a week-long celebration of African thought and principles. These principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Center for Spiritual Living Tucson views each person as the light of consciousness that they already are, even if the individuals have hidden their light from themselves or others. They celebrate the light of consciousness that lives continuously and perpetually within all people through ritual and ceremony during two special events in December.

In the winter solstice candle-lighting ceremony, held at 7 p.m., December 21, the shared light of humanity is recognized and honored through song, story and the lighting of individual candles. On December 31 at 7 p.m., the New Year’s Eve ritual will have two components: releasing the old, worn-out, used-up or no-longer-useful ideas, activities or practices through the use of a burning bowl, and claiming the heart-felt desires for the new year with a powerful, intentional action—stepping across a threshold into a new beginning as a newly-reaffirmed creative being. Both ceremonies are held in the Nickerson Auditorium, 3231 North Craycroft Road, in Tucson.

Rev Janis Farmer is Senior Minister at Center for Spiritual Living Tucson. While not a Tucson native, she arrived as soon as she could, in 2009. Farmer lived in many places, had many life experiences and has been a licensed minister in Tucson since 2015. CSL Tucson teaches spiritual principles and practices that help each individual improve their quality of life, and provides a community in which to enjoy that life. Connect at 520-319-1042 or See ad, page 14.

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