Dec 20, 2019Celebrations of Light

Celebrations of Light

The Spiritual Wellness Team at Saint Luke’s Hospital on the Plaza in Kansas City put together this table-top display ‘Celebrations of Light.’

Sergio Moreno-Denton One-minute read.   Resources
Celebrations of Light. Image credit: Dean Shepard

For this year’s Holiday-Scape event at Saint Luke’s Hospital on the Plaza, the Spiritual Wellness Department created a table-scape with the theme Celebrations of Light. A team of staff chaplains and chaplain residents designed and put together a representation of celebrations of light from six different traditions that are celebrated around the world this time of year.

A cluster of candles at the center of the table symbolized the light of the sun that shines on us all, as well as the arrival of longer daylight at the Winter Solstice. Light radiated from the center to each of the six spokes of this wheel of light. A Hanukkah Menorah (or Chanukkah) represented the minor festival in the Jewish calendar marking the Maccabean Revolt. The candles in the Advent Wreath symbolize the Christian hope in anticipation of the Messiah, Mary ad Joseph’s journey, the joy of Jesus’ birth, and the promise of peace. Mahayana Buddhists celebrate the Buddha’s enlightenment on Bodhi Day with candles, lanterns, and butter lamps. The traditional Christmas Pyramid, with its propellers moved by the heat of candles and beautifully crafted ornamentation, dates back to Europe of the Middle Ages. The seven candles of the Kwanzaa Kinara represent for African Americans the principles of unity (black); self-determination, cooperative economics, and creativity (red); and collective work, responsibility, purpose, and faith (green). Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexican Catholics, is celebrated on December 12th, which is the beginning of the posadas—candlelit processions reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn.

We don’t know exactly when fire was first controlled by early humans but estimates range from 0.2 to 1.7 million years ago. What we do know is that in addition to keeping warm, cooking food, and seeing at night, light became so important to early humans that it came to be central in their spirituality, worship, and celebrations. Making meaning out of light has long been at the heart of who we are as individuals in community and in relationship to the transcendent. This table-scape was but a small representation of the plurality of traditions and celebrations of light, yet it was symbolic of the light that connects all of humankind.

Sergio Moreno-Denton is a Clinical Pastoral Education Resident at Saint Luke’s Hospital.

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