Looking for light on long nights in the mountains (By the Way column)

This is an unusual holiday season. For some of us, looking out at a divided country, it is difficult to know how to face the end of this year and the beginning of the next.

As the holidays come, I have been gathering events through early February. I hope they may give warmth when we need it. And this year, as I look for lighted tractor parades and winter markets and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations, I am more than usually aware of the deeper notes in them.

Here in these hills, the holidays come in with jazz saxophone and Unsilent Nights. Potters are wedging clay, and actors are practicing Dylan Thomas. Farmers are scrubbing earth from the roots in the barn cellars and milking cows on mornings cold enough to snow. Our holidays have a feeling of reality about them.

It’s there in the stories too, when you look. These holidays tell us about family and birth and life renewing, even in danger. In this part of the world, they come at the darkest and coldest time of year, and when we hear stories about light going on in darkness, they seem to fit naturally with the candles we light on these long nights.

Maybe that’s why holidays keep going in hard times. Soldiers have celebrated Christmas in the trenches. Jewish families have celebrated Hanukkah and Passover in hiding from the Nazis. People enslaved on Southern plantations before the Civil War created their own holiday music.

Holidays bring out stories of home and caring for the people and the places that keep us going.

As we come to Solstice and Kwanzaa, Christmas and Hanukkah as they come together in the same week this year, and to the New Year, may the holidays we celebrate bring us close to the hills where we live and all the people who live here with us.

In the photo above, candle flames meet in the dark. Photo by Nevit Dilmen.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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