Celebrations of Light

A group of Medfield Together members volunteered to create a light display for the Winter Lights 2021 at Medfield State Hospital with the theme “Medfield Shines Brighter Together: Celebrate Diversity!” The light display features different cultures’ celebration of light occurring between October and February each year. These holidays include Hannukah, Kwanzaa, The Lantern Festival and Diwali. The Medfield Together display is a part of the broader light extravaganza which also features celebrations for Christmas and the winter season as a whole.

Below are descriptions of the holidays featured in the Medfield Together display as well as contributions from Medfield residents on how they celebrate during the holiday season. Thank you to the families who shared their experiences!

Hannukah

Can you imagine if you needed to make some really important calls but your cell phone only had 1% battery power left — then it lasted for eight whole days? A miracle, right? Otherwise know as The Festival of Lights, Hannukah/Chanukah (there are actually many ways to spell it correctly) commemorates an ancient version of that sort of miracle.

The holiday celebrates the story of a spiritual and military victory, when a small army of Jews rebelled and won against a cruel king who had Outlawed Jews from practicing their religion, then wrecked The Second Temple of Jerusalem with his huge army. For eight nights, (starting on the 25th day of Kislev, according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December), a candle on the menorah/hannukiyah is lit in remembrance of the tiny pot of olive oil that the Maccabees found to light the temple’s menorah after they had reclaimed the temple. They worried that it was barely enough to last one evening, but miraculously it burned for eight nights!

Today, Jewish families and friends gather to sing together, light the candles, play games (like dreidel) give gifts and eat yummy traditional foods that are fried in oil, like jelly donuts (sufganiyot) and potato latkes.

How we celebrate Hannukah:

“For us, Chanukah means family. It’s a time to get together and celebrate our history, honor traditions, remember those that have come before us, and always eat some delicious food! Our family celebrates both Chanukah and Christmas. We celebrate with light, with time together, sharing meals and stories, sharing memories and love.”
– The Mandigo family: Adrienne, Matthias, and Vyla Rain.

A lot of people think Hanukkah is just about lighting candles and getting gifts. But for me, as I light the candles and watch the mesmerizing flames dance in the dark, It makes me think of what it means to be a light in my family, in my community and in the world.  And speaking of dancing, my family also has many fun Hanukkah traditions,  including a funny dance that my dad made up my sister and I were little that we like to call “The Chanukah Dance”.  It must be danced before receiving gifts.  Every time I do it with my husband and daughter or extended extended friends and family, I feel like my dad is with us.  And love thinking that this silly thing we used to do will probably get passed down to my grandchildren and their children as well. It literally fills my chest up with loving warmth as we collapse into laughter at the end, It has inspired me to create lots of fun family traditions of my own.
– Jules Hoffman

Kwanzaa

A festival celebrated by African Americans, Kwanzaa was first introduced to the United States by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home. Dr. Karenga created seven guiding principles, each representing one value of African culture that builds and reinforces a sense of community amongst African-Americans. On each of the seven days, (starting on December 26th and ending on January 1st), a different principle is discussed, and a corresponding candle is lit on the kinara. The Seven Principles are Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith). 

To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit https://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org.

Chinese Lantern Festival

The Lunar New Year, commonly known as Chinese New Year, is celebrated throughout East Asia and is the biggest holiday in China. It starts on the second new moon after the winter solstice and starting sometime between January 21 and February 20 each year. It is traditionally celebrated for 15 days from new moon to full moon.

The Lantern Festival, also called Yuan Xiao Festival, takes place on the 15th day and marks the end of the traditional new year celebrations. During the festival, lanterns – primarily red in color to symbolize good fortune – are displayed in houses and along streets and are often accompanied by riddles. If the riddles are answered correctly, the solver earns a small gift. Savory or sweet glutinous rice balls sometimes filled with fruits and nuts, called yuanxiao or tangyuan, are eaten during the festival. The round shape of the balls symbolizes wholeness and unity within the family. The Lantern Festival encourages reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness.

Diwali

Diwali, also called Deepavali, the “Festival of Lights”, is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains across the world. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deep or diya). It is a festival of new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, righteousness over treachery, truth over falsehood and light over darkness.

In one of the stories in Hindu mythology, Diwali is the day Lord Rama, his wife Sita Devi and brother Lakshmana returned to their homeland after 14 years in exile. The villagers light up the path for Lord Rama, who had defeated the demon king Ravana.

Diwali festival always falls between mid-October and mid-November on the new moon and usually coincides with the 15th day of the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar.

During Diwali, we wear our finest traditional clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of our house with diyas (clay lamps filled with oil) and rangoli (art form created on floor with colored sand or colored rice), perform worship ceremonies of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, light fireworks, and partake in family feasts, where mithai (sweets) and gifts are shared.

A message from a family that celebrates Diwali:

“May Diwali always bring you happiness, peace, prosperity and love.”
– The Paul Family

Christmas

Christmas is a holiday that has been adopted and celebrated by people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and religions – expanding beyond its origins as a celebration of the birthday of Christ. The symbolism and traditions considered “normal” for the holiday do not provide representation for all of those who celebrate. However, this may not be known or ever considered by those who identify as White.

How our Black family celebrates Christmas:

As a young child, Christmas was always my favorite holiday. It wasn’t just the presents, although Christmas and birthdays were the only times of year where we received new toys. It was the spirit of the holiday; the notions of hope, joy, peace on earth, and universal kindness that I loved the most. The spirit of the season felt accessible to anyone. Santa judged children not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. It was a time I could feel included and welcome. But as I grew older I noticed that every single Santa, angel, elf, and nativity scene figurine I encountered in public spaces were white. They looked nothing like me or my family. Dreaming of a white Christmas seemed unnecessary when I could just visit the mall while awake. My parents tried their best to make my sisters and I feel included in the Christmas magic by filling our home with black elves, black angels, black wise men and shepherds, and of course black Santa. All of our dolls we unwrapped on Christmas morning were black. If the toy didn’t come in darker skin tones, we didn’t own it. Representation and inclusion matters. Now that I have children of my own, I appreciate my parents efforts to make the Christmas spirit welcoming to everyone, and build upon those efforts by including many different races in our holiday celebrations at home, hoping to spread peace on Earth and good will to ALL. Happy Holidays!
– Keba Schwanbeck

Celebrations of Light

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