Light travels 93 million miles to get here from our sun, at the speed of light, and though that trip takes nearly 8.5 minutes, a bolt of lightning travels exactly the same speed in a flash. While strange lights in the sky have haunted humans at times, how much more we dread the dark. We are glad enough that the long dark nights of Fall shorten with the solstice—reason enough to celebrate!
The starry sky has been our University, by degrees. From somewhere in the dim, distant past, humans have tried to figure out the stars, make meaning from them, and then measure human movement, bodies in the solar system, the galaxy, and the Universe. And although the moon only reflects the sun’s light, what an influence it has had on earth; and humans-- since we’ve inhabited this planet.
Light gives life, it scares away frights of the night, guides us on our travels, protects us from falling off precipices and stubbing our toes, lengthens our days, and celebrates our life-ways. When humans could, they brought light to the night with blazing bonfires, heartening hearths, and comforting candles. Now electricity is the spark that ignites the lights of our lives like never before.
Light became a symbol a long time ago. Light represents goodness, wisdom, glory & honor. Lady Liberty raises her lamp to light the way--even if our nation hasn’t yet matched her promise, it’s the ideal we hold high: the American Dream. A lightbulb is a pervasive image in our society for a good idea. And light brings gladness and cheer, especially this time of year. We both celebrate light, and we celebrate with lights—at all times of the year.
Festivals of Light--Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas
I missed Diwali. It was Oct 27 this year, long before I thought of doing this post. It’s a celebration from India and much of Southern Asia. Light as a symbol of Good, and Dark as a symbol of Evil, sound very familiar in Western traditions as well. I’ve included a couple photos of a beautiful local Sikh Temple, both day and night. What saddened me on picture day was to see a security guard there. In a country where we hold religious freedom dear, I hope that there were no incidents that caused people to fear. That is definitely not enlightened living.
Experience brings enlightened views:
Hindus across India celebrate Diwali festival of lights with firecrackers and candles
Hindus celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights
Diwali - Festival of Lights | National Geographic
I would have liked to go to the “Sharing the Light” Holiday Concert at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and Beth Israel Temple/synagogue in Portland, either Sat or Sun Dec 21-22, “In the spirit of our unique and beautiful holiday traditions, join us for a joyful musical collaboration between Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland Community Orchestra, Pacific Youth Choir, and Congregation Beth Israel’s Kol Echad congregational choir.”
Intending to post Dec 20, yet if I waited a little longer, I could include the lighting of the Menorah, I purposely put off publishing. Without a helper, I braved the rainy dark, lit by faith that good and kind people would be at the celebration of Hanukkah to load me afterward to come home. And there were. That was Dec 22, the first day of Hanukkah. (Later I wanted to include a photo of a beautiful Jewish Temple/synagogue in Portland).
The night of lighting the first light of the Menorah--beside entertainment, hot chocolate, jelly filled donuts, and a chocolate gelt drop for the kids—4 speakers gave brief messages. Two I thought were memorable: a Clark County Councilman spoke of some of the same values held by the Hebrews for these thousands of years, that Americans hold today: religious freedom, and the right of self-determination. The Rabbi spoke of the hope and commitment that the lights of Hanukkah symbolize, still celebrated after more than 2100 years, even through dark days. He pointed out that the servant candle is not one of the celebrated ones, but it stands a little taller, in serving others. He encouraged, inspired us also to serve: to light others’ souls and lives.
I noted security was also there, which is usual for events downtown. I can’t say I hope they were there to prevent robberies, but I hope they weren’t there because of the fear of bigotry.
Enlightened Learning through the Leaves of Literature:
Go online to search your local library for information and stories of Hanukkah, or search online (or in your local bookstore) for ones to acquire for your collection. Some I have gathered:
Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel is cute
The Night Before Hanukkah by Natasha Wing is a rhymed take-off of a familiar Christmas poem
Is it Hanukkah Yet? by Chris Barash is a simple rhymed story for those living where it snows
The Hanukkah Trike by Michelle Edwards likens a little girl's life to the Hanukkah story
A World of Holidays: Hanukkah by Anne Clark is perhaps more for grades 2-5, has activities, etc.
And then I thought, “Why not wait to post until I can attend a Kwanzaa celebration?” The only local venue I could find online was at the North Multnomah County Library, Dec 28. So, I headed there by bus. It costed me $2.50 for transportation (“and parking”, if you like) for the day. Can’t make a better bargain.
If you land at the MLK and Killingsworth bus stop, go west young man/woman/old lady, on Killingsworth. The Library is at 512 N Killingsworth street. It’s not a difficult push in a manual wheelchair, but if you go the wrong direction, you’ll get your exercise getting back on track. I still made it before the event started.
I love old architecture, and I loved this library. Across the street is PCC Cascade Campus.
A comfortable ramp leads to the front doors, which open with the push of a button. The space at the doors is not huge, but sufficient. The library has an elevator that is not in a hurry. It seems you have to push the “door close” button before it will take you up or down. I didn’t ask for the restroom key to check that out.
Kwanzaa is an annual event at this branch of the library. In 2019 they had a couple presenters (including slides/video, demonstration, and audience participation), Kwanzaa kid kraft, photo op, a free Kwanzaa themed book for each child, and delicious Kwanzaa themed food. There was a room-full of us. When one of the presenters asked, “Where y’all’s people from?” there were folks from all over the US, and even one from London.
The highlights of the presentations for me:
Jamaican Homestyle Cuisine is kitty-corner from the library. Of course I wanted to try that out. In general, you can eat a meal for about $11, but I wanted to try the Curry Goat. It was too salty for my taste; hopefully that was just a fluke. Soft drinks were $4. It’s not fast food, leave yourself unhurried time. Bob Marley music played in the background. The countertop looked copper clad, which was interesting. Décor was pleasant. Restroom pleasant, though as with any public restroom, it’s advisable to cover the seat of the commode with a paper before you sit.
McMenamins Chapel Restaurant & Pub (and headquarters) "Set in a 1932 restored chapel, this tavern offers comfort food, house-brewed beers & live music. 430 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217" (Google Search) I didn’t go in, but the handicapped ramp is on the west side. There’s a nice half hidden patio for outdoor dining when the weather is suitable.
Enat Kitchen piqued my interest & appetite, "Mellow Ethiopian spot offering classic fare & a lunch buffet in informal digs with outdoor seating. 300 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217" (Google Search), but their hours are 4-9pm Monday through Saturday. I couldn’t stay for them to open.
Phở Jasmine Restaurant Google says is just west a couple blocks from the library: 714 N Killingsworth St., inexpensive “Basic storefront option for Vietnamese noodle soups & other classic fare with beer & wine.”
Atlas Pizza is next to Pho Jasmine, also inexpensive, “Late-night food, comfort food, small plates [available].”
Coffeehouse-Five is located at 740 N. Killingsorth, a “corner coffeehouse with light American bites & big front windows suitable for people watching.”
There are other places to eat if you want to continue further west on Killingsworth.
And then going the other way, east of MLK Jr on Killingsworth Google maps shows another Ethiopian place, Aberus Restaurant, and Pig Patas Tacos, as well as Catalina’s (“Mexican street eats & homestyle entrees at this welcoming cantina with outdoor seats.”). Just south of Killingsworth on MLK is a third African restaurant Horn of Africa ”Vegan-friendly Northeast African spot with a weekday lunch buffet & weekend American breakfasts.”
A group of food carts is parked just east of NE 6th Ave on Killingsworth: The Original Halibuts fish & chips with live blues, U-licious BBQ, PDX Donerland Food Cart, Bella’s Cravings Mediterranean Restaurant, and Rollin’ Fresh sushi. Gino’s Teriyaki is close by at 714 NE Killingsworth. There are more, but you can see there’s a nice variety (including KFC, Subway, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Pizza Hut, Hat Yai Thai, all nearby).
Christmas is the all-pervasive festival of lights in December,
in our part of the world.
Dec 18 three friends went to see the Christmas Ships traveling lightly along the Columbia River. It was rainy and cold, and many people gave up waiting, apparently. Not a lot of ships braved the weather, either. We found a parking lot with a lotta spots: we were right along the Renaissance Trail in Vancouver, WA, where they haven’t yet put up parking meters. I was nervous about finding parking, so we went early, ate and visited in the car, and when the ships came, we got out for photos. It didn’t take long to “freeze” my fingers, and we were glad to have hot chocolate in a thermos, as well as having dressed warmly, brought blankets and umbrellas, and a nice heated vehicle. The Christmas Ships Facebook has more and better photos and videos . . . https://www.facebook.com/christmasship.parade/
My friend shared a shot of her and her son at the Grotto, all alight, where the Evergreen HS choirs had performed. Peter Hollens shot a Christmas music video at the Grotto (when it was warmer than Christmas), you can check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zshzkkD-NYA&list=RDhJw-ey1DPRA&index=2
Some fun Music & Light shows:
Let It Snow/Winter Wonderland (Piano/Cello) The Piano Guys
88 Piano Keys Control 500,000 Christmas Lights! I Saw Three Ships - The Piano Guys
Sarajevo (Carol of the Bells) Christmas Light Show! WATCH END! - Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
E l Paso Christmas Light Show 2014 - Official HD
Amazing and Hilarious Christmas Light Show! - Christmas Can Can
More intimate venues, Christmas music videos:
firelight, yule log & Josh Groban sings for an hour & 20 minutes
Classic Christmas Music with a Fireplace and Beautiful Tree, 2 hours various artists
Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) (fun Animated Lyric Video)
Starlight: Josh Groban - O Holy Night [with lyrics]
#LIGHTtheWORLD "O Holy Night" (Official Music Video) | GENTRI
Lighten Up—Christmas Comedies
One Christmas Eve (2014)
Christmas Eve (2015), with Patrick Stewart
Pete's Christmas (2013)
The Preacher’s Wife (1996), Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington; musical remake of Bishop’s Wife
The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven
The Santa Clause (1994+ series), Tim Allen
Jingle All the Way (1996), Arnold Schwarzenegger
Christmas in Connecticut, (1945)
Christmas in Paradise (2007 TV Movie, TV-PG)
Recipe for a Perfect Christmas (2005 TV Movie, TV-PG)
Four Christmases (2008, PG-13)
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008 TV movie, TV-PG) Henry Winkler
Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 TV Movie)
Traveling to see the Lights
Christmas in Paris 2019 (Paris = “City of Lights”) video by Christina Guan, Happy to Wander
Vancouver, BC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdRjOUWkSs0
Christmas around the world, not great music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVQ6wY04PQ4
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I've been in a wheelchair for 30+ years. It poses some challenges for traveling. Maybe others can benefit from my experiences.