However you say it, there are many ways to offer greetings during this holiday season, you might ask Habari Gani?, or What’s the news?, a common greeting during Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1, and on the sixth day there is a feast called a Karamu. They light a candle each night on a kinara and discuss the seven principles such as Unity, Purpose, and Faith. Kwanzaa is not a religious-based celebration, but one based on culture that first started in 1966.
During Christmas, candles were lit and placed in a window representing the Bethlehem Star, which guided the Magi to the stable where Jesus was found. The practice of placing lit candles on Christmas trees dates to 1660 in Germany. As you may imagine, lit candles on a tree indoors could have disastrous consequences. Three days before Christmas in 1882, electric holiday lights were created, which was only two years after Edison invented the lightbulb. These “Electric Trees” became very popular as you may well know. Some of the displays people do these days that light up their house, synchronized with holiday music, are an amazing sight and sound!
In Judaism, there is the menorah. Menorah means “lamp” and originally only had seven branches, one for each day of creation. Now it is an eight-branched candelabra with one more typically taller or offset from the rest. This one is called the shamash in Hebrew, in English it translates to “servant” as it serves to light each others’ candles over the holiday’s eight days. Why eight? It represents the lamp oil that was only supposed to last one day but ended up lasting eight days during a rebellion over two thousand years ago.
During this season, many of us celebrate with the lighting of candles or lights for many different reasons, but what they all have in common is that they serve as a reminder. A reminder that we have a history that is important to every one of us. That we can come together in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie. That our similarities outweigh our differences. Whether you offer someone a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, or ask Habari Gani, let this season of lights bring joy to your heart and a smile to your face the same way it did when you were a child.