What is the great, overarching fascination with colourful lights at Christmas?
There is no mention in the Bible about Christmas lights at the stable or around the manger in Bethlehem.
Frankly, based on personal experience, if there were any word about stringing lights or hanging decorations, it would be unprintable anyway.
More likely, the lights actually have nothing to do with Christmas proper. That is, they have nothing to do with the alleged birth of a Nazarene Christ-child in Bethlehem in or around 4 BC.
After all, we don’t even know the actual year He was born, so suggesting that we could know the exact date is more than a bit presumptuous.
On the other hand, Dec. 25th seems like as good a date as any to celebrate the birth of a child who changed the world, since that used to be the first day of each new year for the Celts of Ireland – who saved Christianity as we know it while it was being stamped out in the rest of the world.
But back to the coloured lights… when you remove them from scriptural tradition and Christ’s birth and all that stuff, and consider what else was going on at that time of year, they start to make more sense.
This is the time of the winter solstice. From year to year it shifts a bit, between Dec. 19th and 22nd, but this year it’s… today! This year, Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
(Sorry, all you cousins and friends and other folks living on the wrong side of the equator, but when push comes to traditional shove, you don’t really count.)
The farther you go north from the equator, the less daylight there is today.
Doesn’t it make sense to light up that dastardly darkest of days with candles and bonfires – and now strings of coloured lights – to encourage the sun to rise a bit earlier and set a bit later?
And within a couple of days – say, by Dec. 25 – there will be a noticeable (albeit slight) extension of the daily allotment of daylight.
What better time to begin each new year?
And what better date to signify the birth of a new world?
Maybe the baby Jesus didn’t enter this world on Dec. 25. But I’m sure he would have loved the lights.