Friday, February 22, 2019 -
Print Edition

Festivals of light


There’s no denying that short days and long nights can be a challenge. Darkness combined with chilling temperatures is why light festivals are found across the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year.

In Europe, it seems the whole continent is perfumed by the warming wintertime spices of cloves, ginger and cinnamon, whether in the form of baked goods or mulled wine. Candles are often lit in homes for ambience.

With Chanukah, not only are we lighting up dark nights, but the holiday evokes spiritual illumination — when the Hasmoneans recaptured the Holy Temple from those seeking to defile it. In these dark days of winter, sometimes we need uplifting.

One winter I traveled above the Polar Circle. It was evident why light — and celebrations thereof — are such a big part of Scandinavian culture. When the sun never even rises above the horizon, it’s necessary to generate light some other way.

Speaking of holidays suited to their location: In recent years, Ramadan has taken place during the summer. A Muslim friend of mine and I used to joke that it was clear her religion was founded by someone living close to the equator. Certainly someone living in the UK, where she lives, would not institute a daily fast of 18-and-a-half hours for 30 days!

It makes me wonder about Jews living in the Southern Hemisphere — celebrating Chanukah in the summer and Sukkot in the spring!

As for me, I’m glad to be in Denver, where temperatures are finally dropping and nights are lengthening: perfect for lighting that first Chanukah candle on Tuesday.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at

Copyright © 2017 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Shana Goldberg

IJN Assistant Publisher |

Leave a Reply