2001-12-15 / Columnists

Health and Harmony

By Dr. Nancy Gahles

By Dr. Nancy Gahles

As the winter solstice approaches, so does the promise of light. December 21 is the celebration of the promise of light and warmth returning. It is marked by the holidays of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights and Christmas with all the attendant lights on homes and trees. All the holidays of this season, including Kwanzaa, have rituals that call in the understanding of the light and warmth that we carry inside us and that we are called upon to share with humanity.

In this season, it is especially important that we carry on our rituals. In times of loss, sadness or grief, we may be hard pressed to "celebrate". Holiday traditions are very important for healing, especially for the children. And Chanukah and Christmas do focus on the children, which allow the child in us all to be set free.

As Paula Court so aptly put it, " Holiday traditions provide predictability."

Children need predictability in their life to feel secure. They need to believe that no matter what happens in the world around them, some things will never change. Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa will come, the Menorah will be lit in exactly the same way, the tree will be decorated with the old ornaments, and the holiday foods will be prepared exactly in the same way. These traditions will be very comforting to children bombarded with scenes of burning towers and crashing planes. Traditions give children something to depend on year after year, and provide an ongoing sense of continuity, which is important for creating stable, secure adults. 

The first winter celebration is Chanukah, which begins on Tuesday, December 10. It is one of the oldest stories of darkness and light. The story of the Macabees tells us that God's light burns in the darkness even without oil. And it is so. A wonderful healer, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, wrote a book called, My Grandfather's Blessings," in which she recounted a story that her grandfather told her. A traditional, healing, holiday story. It’s the kind of story that you tell over and over, year after year. The one that the children look forward to hearing and that they will tell to their children. It is worth repeating.

"The story of Chanukah says that God's light burns in the darkness even without oil, and it is so. That is one of the miracles of light. But there is more. There is a place in everyone that can carry the light. God has made us this way. When God says, LET THERE BE LIGHT, he is speaking to us personally. He is telling us what is possible, how we might choose to live. But one candle does not do much in the darkness. God has not only given us the chance to carry the light, he has made it possible for us to kindle and strengthen the light in one another, passing the light along. This is the way that God's light will shine forever in this world." And Rachel said." After many years I have found that often we discover the place in us that carries the light only after it has become dark. Sometimes it is only in the dark that we know the value of this place. But there is a place in everyone that can carry the light. This is true. My grandfather said so."

May all your holiday traditions be a source of strength and comfort to you and yours.

May the Blessings Be!   

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