During the holiday season, many of us choose to brighten our surroundings as well as our spirits by celebrating with light. Nothing says Christmas has arrived more than neighborhoods adorned with little bulbs shining joyful colors. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is actually called the Festival of Light, with each of its eight nights lighting more and more candles with which to chase away the winter darkness. Both coincidentally happen close to the winter solstice… the shortest day of the year.
But these well-known holidays are predated by other festivals of light. Hundreds of years before the first Christmas and the story of Hanukkah, the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia was celebrated by lighting bonfires and candles in the days surrounding the solstice. Around the same time, Hindus began celebrating Makar Sankranti, also by lighting bonfires.
During the shortest days of the year, the winter sun shines from a much lower angle than during those of the summer. If fact, the sun rises about half as high in the noon sky of December as it does in July. In these, the darkest day days of the year, it’s no wonder why mankind has always looked to festivals of light for comfort and inspiration.
Many parts of the world of late appear to be facing some dark days of their own, with several international economies sputtering. But alas, there is a light illuminating the global economic sky. It is ours here in the United States. As 2014 comes to a close, our star shines bright. Employment has greatly improved, business and consumer confidence is once again strong and our stock markets are making new highs. Subsequently, most of our indicators point to a prosperous 2015 ahead.
Holiday lights and flames have always been shining beacons symbolizing the hope of bright days to come. As we all pass through the shortest days of the year, may the glow of our strengthening economy provide inspiration to our global peers, leading them to the brighter days of their own economic springtime.
Wishing you plenty of light this holiday season and a very bright 2015 to come,
Jim Scheinberg and my brilliant team at North Pier