Our unique Michiana season is well underway – the one known as “PermaCloud.” Known primarily by its dark and overcast characteristics, Michiana has been known to go as long as 34 days in a row with no sunshine.
Seasonal affective disorder symptoms can be triggered by these longer hours of darkness. Studies show that sitting in front of a full spectrum light of 10,000 lux intensity for 30 minutes each morning can diminish or eliminate the tiredness, depression and irritability associated with the disorder.
It’s no surprise that people since the beginning of recorded history have marked this season with various festivals of light. Hoping to convince the sun to return and shine again, early Europeans from Bulgaria to Great Britain hauled the biggest Yule logs they could find into their fireplaces to burn at solstice. It was hoped the log would last at least the whole night through, if not all through solstice, or later, when the festival was Christianized, throughout the twelve days of Christmas. The wood was thought to be lucky, and part of it kept to light the next year’s log.
Hindus, Jains and Sikhs celebrate Diwali (it means ‘row of lighted lamps’ and is known as the festival of lights), which ends mid-November. Several small lamps are lighted each night, and burn until daylight. They also set off large fireworks displays during this festival.
In Thailand, the festival of lights is called Loy Kratong in the south, and Yi Peng in the north. Yi Peng celebrations light hundreds of sky lanterns, and Loy Kratong puts lamps and candles on leaves to float down the rivers. This festival is for making wishes, releasing negative things, and starting new.
The Christian celebration of Advent (advent means coming) uses a wreath holding five candles. Each week closer to Christmas an additional candle is lighted, the four representing hope, peace, joy, and love. Christmas day, the central candle is lit as well, representing light and celebrating the birth of Jesus. The wreath originally was used by early Europeans during the solstice festival.
Jews celebrate Hanukkah (also known as – surprise! – festival of lights) this time of year, and burn one additional candle each day in a special nine-branched holder called a menorah. The holiday commemorates the miracle of one day’s oil lasting eight days for the temple lamps.
African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa during this time of year. While not a festival of lights, it uses candles in its symbolism – seven of them, one for each of the seven community principles the holiday celebrates.
So if you feel overcome by the darkness, know you’re not alone. Join the party – light a candle, set off a sky lantern, burn some fireworks, sit in front of a SADS light, or have a fire in your fireplace. Remind yourself that this dark season too shall pass, and the sun will be shining bright and warm again before we know it!