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Lights -

 December 26, 2002 

Lights, which have guided sailors for centuries, take on special significance at holiday time

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining...

Last Sunday was the shortest day of the year. At our present location in the Bahamas, at around 26 degrees north latitude, the amount of daylight doesn't vary that much over the course of the solar year. Nonetheless, it's nice to know the days are getting longer, if only by a few minutes. Sort of gives you a sense of hope. From primordial times, people have recognized the significance of the winter solstice and have celebrated the advent of more light to come.

A few years ago around this time, we were in the company of a couple of other cruising boats on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway near Hilton Head. Our friends Harvey and Gerbrig on "Soulstice II" invited the rest of us to join them in celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of Lights. We dined on potato latkes and bowls of hearty borscht - perfect food to counter the winter chill. Gerbrig lit the candles on the menorah. The gentle light of friendship and goodwill suffused our cosy space.

Last year we were in Trinidad for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights marking the new year according to the Vikrama calendar. About 40% of the population of Trinidad is ethnic East Indian. Towns were brightly lit for the occasion and fireworks were set off to frighten away any lurking spirits of the dead.

At Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the light of the world. The Bahamas is a devoutly Christian country. A few days ago, we were in Marsh Harbour for the annual lighted boat parade. At anchor on "Little Gidding", we had front row seats as local boats (and a few visiting cruisers) bedecked in colourful lights slowly circled the harbour. There were one or two illuminated Santa Clauses, evidence of the enduring influence of the Coca Cola company admen who invented the red-suited elf a few generations ago. The floating light display that got the most spectator applause, however, was more geographically appropriate - a barge full of lit palm trees. As the last boat completed the final circuit of the harbour, the sky overhead exploded with fireworks. Upturned faces - black, white and every shade in between - shone with the reflected light. We felt good.

We wish all of you a holiday season full of light and hope.

David & Eileen