Light represents love, life, hope and joy. It is the purest form of energy, light gives and nurtures life. The light within, the very essence of the human soul, the light at the end of every tunnel, light has inspired many:
“Knowledge is light, love and vision.” Helen Keller
“Beauty is not in the face, beauty is a light in the heart.” Khalil Gibran
“Love is not consolation. It is light.” Friedrich Nietzsche.
Light plays a central role in the celebration of festivals in November: Diwali in India and Martinstag, St. Martin's Day, in Germany.
It is only appropriate that Diwali, a Hindu festival honouring the joyful homecoming of a son and rightful heir to the throne be celebrated with the illumination of millions of diyas, candles and coloured lights in homes and cities across the country. It is a celebration of the triumph of the just, a reassurance very important to society. The Festival of Lights enjoys a secular character unequalled by any other festival in India, which is testified the morning after Diwali by the amazing quantity of litter from firecrackers in every neighbourhood.
A festival in India is incomplete without the mention of food, food gives the final, glorious touch to all Indian celebrations. Friends, relatives and business associates exchange boxes of dried fruits and nuts, sweetmeats and baskets of fresh fruits at Diwali; the larger these are, the better. The bursting of firecrackers in the evening is followed by dinner and card parties with unabashed gambling late into the night, accompanied by the free flow of alcohol.
Martinstag is celebrated on 11.11 all over Germany, it is also the start of the traditional forty-day fasting period ending on Christmas.
Children make their own lanterns in schools and kindergartens for the Laternenumzug, lantern-procession on St. Martins Day. They can be seen on the cold and dark November evening, snugly dressed in warm winter woollies, walking double file in a long procession through the neighbourhoods, proudly singing and carrying their self-made lanterns. Parents trot next to their youngsters, carrying their own self-made lanterns. Schools and kindergarten organise a special evening dedicated to lantern-making in which children and parents work on their lanterns together.
“First the work, then the pleasure” goes a very German idiom, lanterns for the Laternenumzug are rarely available for purchase.
The Laternenumzug ends with a party around a bonfire, with loads of goodies and singing.
Martinstag is celebrated to honour charity and love for mankind.
Martin von Tours, born in 316, was a Roman soldier. On a bitter, cold winter night he came upon a beggar on the outskirts of town, scantily dressed, freezing in the cold. Martin von Tours took off his own warm cloak, cut it in two and handed over one half to the beggar. That night Jesus appeared in his dreams, wearing the half cloak Martin had given the beggar, revealing he had been none other than Jesus himself. Thereafter, Martin von Tours became a monk and dedicated his life to the service of God.
11.11 is the feast day of St. Martin.
On that note, signing off from Frankfurt am Main,
6th November 2012