In November, the Library was decorated for Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and as we were setting up the finishing touches, the staff discussed what it must be like to celebrate this time of year in different areas of the world. Pinki shared some of her experiences celebrating Diwali in the past, and how they typically set up strings of lights around the house to celebrate the victory of light overcoming the darkness, good over evil and helping light the path for Rama returning from exile.
Over in Austria, Sabine recalls setting up the tree on Christmas Eve with homemade craft ornaments, cookies, and real candles and sparklers — on a live tree no less! This was the one time in Austria when they would play the sweet and solemn hymn Silent Night. As a child, she would hope to get a visit from Saint Nicholas and avoid the frightening Krampus.
Back home in the Bahamas we celebrate Junakoo — similar to carnival — on Boxing Day and New Years Day where folks parade through the streets in elaborate, brightly colored costumes playing goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles and brass instruments and parties lasting all through the night until the early morning hours. The festivities were drawn out as long as possible, for this was the only time off given to plantation slaves centuries ago.
One thing stands out in each of these experiences: celebration. In sharing these experiences, we learn about each other’s heritage. We can empathize with each other by sharing fond holiday memories with our families and friends. We can find common ground in something that, from the surface, may seem completely different, but ultimately demonstrates how we all embrace light, hope and happiness.
The Library isn’t just a place to borrow books. It’s a place to learn and experience different languages, cultures, people and ideas. Celebrating diversity enriches our lives and our community, it serves to educate and unite us. How do you and your loved ones celebrate? Stay safe this holiday season, however you celebrate.