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  • Writer's pictureJoe Cherry


I don’t think it’s really possible that a modern person understands, viscerally, the depth of night. We know what it’s like to have no lights on in our homes, but even then, mostly, there is the ambient light of other humans. There are always other houses, street lamps, large cities whose glow pollutes the holy darkness that is the night. Humans who lived before 1879 understood how dark the night was. As early as 1880 Wabash, Indiana introduced electric street lamps, and by the 1920’s most cities had electric lights.

On December 21st we will have our longest night of the year. Our ancestors understood this annual event and created rituals and ceremonies that were celebrated around the longest night of the year. Beginning in late November (the 24th this year) Christians observe a four week long time of anticipation, called Advent, where they await the birth of the Christ Child, which culminates in Christmas. Buddhist observe Bodhi Day, the day that marks the enlightenment of The Buddha. People of the Jewish Faith celebrate Hanukkah, which commemorates the liberation of Jerusalem in 165 BC and the reconsecration of their temple. With only enough oil to last 2 nights, the lamp stayed lit for 8 nights, and they consider this to be a miracle. This year Hanukkah will be observed from December 18-26. In the midst of these holy days for these faiths comes the longest night of the year, a night when people in the British Isles burned the largest log through the night, this annual celebration is of course Yule. And lastly in order of date and time of first celebration is Kwaanza which begins on December 26 and is a modern celebration of the values of the people of the African Diaspora.

Light is the human response to the mystery that is the night. For most of human history night was a very dangerous time. May these commemorations of hope, comfort and joy bring to you a sense of well being this season.

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Rev. Joe Cherry

Rev. Joe is a biracial, gay, Unitarian Universalist minister, and history nerd. He lives in North Easton, Massachusetts, with his husband, Rev. Denis Paul, and their dog, Toulouse.

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