Holiday Pearls

Are you a sunset watcher? My parents were sunset devotees. I have sunset appreciation in my DNA. I’ve been privileged to observe the elusive green flash just as the setting sun slides silently beyond the visualized horizon. The latest plume of special coloring happened with my children on Winter Solstice. With an ocean-wave symphony in the background, we were treated to nature’s special effects along Hawaii’s Kona Coast. Capturing a photo of this momentary green gem is rare.   

Several conditions coincide to create this refraction phenomenon of sun rays:

  • Pollution is absent.
  • The sky is cloudless at the horizon.
  • The horizon is in clear view.

While a green flash is the “usual” burst of unusual sunset coloring, sometimes the color is vivid blue. It is possible to see a green or blue flash in sunrises, but it occurs just as sunshine pokes above the observed horizon. The atmosphere functions like a kaleidoscope prism and separates light into colors.

Light is like a special friend. We savor it. When one’s days approach the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, winter comments frequently reference the importance of reaching Solstice and moving into longer daytime hours.

Consider the importance of light in treasured holidays at this time of year. Diwali, India’s most important holiday (celebrated in November), is called a festival of lights. The 5-day holiday is named after a row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) placed outside Indian homes to symbolize an inner light or spiritual awakening within people. Originally a Hindu tradition, today the national holiday is celebrated by Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist communities also.

The Hanukkah story celebrates the light lasting day after day even when there was not enough oil in the menorah or candelabrum. When families light each candle for 8 days, they may say a blessing to give thanks for miracles, including the capacity to love and the blessing of receiving love. Kwanzaa, a secular African American celebration of ancestral roots (December 26-January 1st), also has candle lighting significance — 7 candles celebrate unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

The light in the Christmas story includes wise men (or early astronomers) who were avid sky-watchers. These magi (often referred to as kings), may have come from different countries. A later story gave their origins as Persia, India, and Arabia. They followed light of a specific star (or planet) to locate Bethlehem where they found the newly born Jesus. Each wise person brought a gift; gold, frankincense and myrrh were offered to the humble family. The very bright star was a prophecy that held religious significance as delivering hope to the world.

These shared themes of light and hopeful purpose have meaning today. Let’s teach school children about the similarities of treasured holiday (holy-day) traditions. Sunsets, sunrises, and the special effects of nature’s light are meant for everyone.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz

145. What does winter mean to you?

146. When do you experience the gift of “light” in your life?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


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