Sunday, December 10, 2017

Baltic Christmas Day 10 - The Peace Light from Bethlehem

From candle to candle, lantern to lantern, scout to scout…

For 30 years the Peace Light from Bethlehem has been spreading a message of peace and unity across the world. Every year, a Scout from Austria retrieves the light from the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, lighting a candle from the eternal flame. From there the Light travels back to Vienna, Austria under the auspices of the International Scouting Movement, and like the branches of a tree, the symbol of peace spreads through Europe during the month of December.

For 14 years the Peace Light has traveled to the Baltics, some years brought by the Ukrainian scouts, other years traveling north from Austria/Poland: Lithuania, to Latvia, to Estonia. Taikos šviesa iš Betliejaus, Betlēmes miera gaisma, Petlemmi rahu valgus; many names in different languages, but bringing the same message of peace & hope to cities, towns, communities and homes across the world.

12 year old Tobias Flachner lighting the Peace Light in Bethlehem in 2017 (source)

From Vienna, Austrian Airlines transported the Light of Peace to New York and to Toronto, arriving at JFK on November 25, 2017. After a sharing ceremony at the airport, the Light immediately started its travels across the United States; last week the Latvian Scouts in Chicago received it, and will pass it on Christmas Eve during candlelight ceremonies.

The Latvian scouts receive the Peace Light in 2014 (source)

We watched the connections travel west, then south: from Pembroke, MA  to Indianapolis with BSA Pack 105 from the Mayflower Council, Indiana to Chattanooga with Lincoln Heritage Council Troop 1, from Chattanooga to Atlanta with Troop 370 of the Atlanta Area Council…

And then, on the day after it snowed two inches here in the South (where it never snows!) I drove to Atlanta to bring the Light to Upstate SC. A red lantern was fueled and ready, and a supply of vigil candles awaited us at home.

Representative of Atlanta Area Council sharing the Light in Atlanta

Today we will have a Welcome Ceremony for the Peace Light, bringing Latvian Scouts, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts and the community together in this wonderful tradition. Represented will also be Troop 553 from the Indian Waters Council in Columbia, and through them the Light will continue its travels south to Florida, hopefully making it all the way to Key West.

We are honored to have been a part of bringing the Peace Light to Greenville (and possibly the Upstate) for the first time. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of dozens of people, from the Scouts who transported the Light hundreds of miles from JFK, to the folks who manage and the Peace Light Facebook page…. From the Scout Leaders of Troop 30 here in Greenville today, to those leaders with a vision 30 years ago… Tonight our home will be lit by the Light of Peace, and I am warmed by the knowledge that I share this Light with Lithuanian, Latvian & Estonian Scouts, my family in Chicago, and communities and homes across the world.
If you are in the US/Canada and interested in participating in this tradition, please join the Facebook group “Peace Light – North America” where distribution plans and route maps are shared, as well as event information and photos. You will find links to the UK and other World Scouting Peace Light contacts at GAZ’s website. This website includes information about safe handling of the Peace light flame and how it is distributed throughout the European Continent and History of the Peace Light “movement.”

The Peace Light is a live flame, and precautions should be taken when transporting it and keeping it. When traveling, a lantern in a stabilizing carrier is most often used, and the car windows left partly open for ventilation. At home we prefer to keep the Light with the 3-day vigil candles. They are in glass cylinders, have no odor, and burn for up to three days. Instructions on building carriers for lanterns, as well as other ideas and suggestions can be found on the Peace Light website and Facebook group.

May you have Peace and Light in your home this holiday season, and please join us tomorrow with the 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas Beginner's Guide to Galerts!

1 comment:

  1. The Chicago Latvian community receives light from the peace light at church on Christmas Eve.

    I know one Latvian scout leader in Chicago whose light never goes out - he blew out the light on his water heater and relit it with the peace light! Does this mean all the water in his house is peacful?


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