Hanukkah 2012: The Jewish Holiday Is Not the Only Festival of Lights

Since I’ve never been abroad during the holiday season, I assume that Americans are not the only citizens who take leave of their senses at Christmastime.

Although, it does seem like a slender hope to cling to, since winter fire festivals are apparently ingrained in human nature.

What possesses normal, deficit-fearing (come on, not all of the crazy people on this website are Democrats and y’all know that!) households to buy and maintain, not to mention pay for the electricity to run, these over-the-top light displays?

I know some neighborhoods get together and do this for fun, or for charity, but some of these installations contain tens or hundreds of thousands of light bulbs, animations, inflatables and other insanities. Browse through the Tacky Lights Tour to see pictures and videos from every state, each more eye-popping and jaw dropping than the last.

Ever since the first observers of celestial bodies noticed that the lengths of nights and days varied in an even pattern around the seasons of the year, humankind has celebrated the return of the sun and, symbolically, the return of light and life to the world at the winter solstice.

It is no accident that fire festivals and symbols of light — stars, candles, lanterns, and fireworks — show up in religious observances around the world at this time of year.

Here’s a partial list of the world's winter light celebrations:

1. St. Lucia’s Day, December 13, celebrated in Scandinavian countries

2. Hanukkah, December 8–16

3. Bodhi Day, December 8, celebrated in Buddhist culture as the day Siddhartha    saw the morning star and attained enlightenment

4. Christmas, December 25

5. Kwanzaa, December 26–January 1, celebrated among African-Americans to honor African roots and culture

The idea of the fire festival as a time of rededication and renewal during the winter solstice is so imprinted upon our collective psyche that it even shows up in fantasy literature.

My personal favorite is Richard Adams’ treatment in the novel, Maia. The priest-king wears weighted clogs to walk down the steps of a sacred pool, into water over his head. He retrieves a cleverly constructed crystal globe with a light burning inside, a powerful symbol.

So, it’s not altogether out of character for Americans to light up the winter night with all those Christmas lights. In fact, we’re following our deepest and most primitive instincts by doing so. One does wish that we didn’t also seem to follow Martha May Whovier’s trendsetting while doing so but oh well.

Enjoy the Tacky Lights Tour!