Saturday, December 15, 2018

Baltic Christmas Day 15 - A Lantern

The legacy of the ancient Balts is reflected in symbols, from the sun and moon, to earth, water and fire. These symbols tell a story, one dependent on Mother Earth and her bounty, of using the natural world as a guide to live a life ruled by the changing seasons and weather.

Light is a recurring theme, as it is in many cultures due to the necessity of light to live. From the sunlight that nourishes crops, to the fire that warms the hearth, light is woven into the fabric of our ethnic heritage. The sign of the Sun, dating back to the Early Iron Age. The tree of Sun, which represents reaching upward, growth. The Indo-European fire cross; a symbol of fire, thunder, light, fortune, health and prosperity. The sign of the Moon, the symbol of warriors. The Sign of Auseklis (Morning Star); a protector, woven into blankets and coats to safeguard travelers.

As we await the winter solstice the days keep getting shorter, and to warm the long nights we bring lights into our home. We string them in our Christmas trees, we light candles in the windows; we warm ourselves around the fireplace and we keep the Baltic fires burning.

A modern-day tradition that our family keeps is the Peace Light. This year the Peace Light has arrived in our home, a symbol of hope and light, traveling the world spreading its message. We celebrated with our scout troop, making lanterns to home the Peace Light during its stay in our lives.

It’s really so simple, and the results so beautiful. Save a tin can headed for the recycling bin and stick it in the freezer after filling with water. (We learned that sticking a straw in it will keep the pressure from pushing the bottom out, although if this happens it’s just a matter of hammering it back in once the lantern has been finished.) Once the water has frozen, use a nail, hammer, towel and safety glasses to make holes in the can in the shape of symbols or pictures. Put two larger holes near the top and affix a wire to hang the lantern, and finally light a tea light in it, once the ice has melted. 

Dear readers, I wish you light and warmth during these longest nights! May you find joy in the simple things: a tealight in a tin can, the shadowplay from a lantern, the light in a child’s eyes. May your days be filled with anticipation, not stress: the smell of piparkūkas and kanēļmaizītes, the arrival of the postman, the sound of bells, the daily 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas article. And may winter solstice arrive and the days start growing longer, as the sun starts on its annual journey of venturing higher into the sky.

Please join us tomorrow on 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas as we take a closer look at the similarities and differences in the Latvian and Lithuanian Christmas/Kūčios dinners!

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