Lighting up the night — and a holiday wish for you


The shortest days of the year are here, the time of darkness. But when there’s darkness there’s almost always a little light. And walking around my city this December, I see the lights, shining out like little rays of joy and hope. Call them Christmas lights or Hanukkah lights or whatever you like, they all have the same message — life goes on irrepressibly in this long, cold night.

It’s a symbol you see all over the world: lighting up the night is a tradition in countries far and wide. And it’s not just about the lights decorating the Christmas tree. In Sweden, the Christmas celebrations feature theChristmas tree Eaton Centre Queen of Light, wearing a crown of candles. And in Greece, they string lights from the rigging of special miniature boats.

In some places, the light comes from real fire — like the special candles that mark the eight nights of Hanukkah. In Spain, people jump over Christmas fires to ensure good health in the new year. And down in Louisiana, they light huge bonfires on the levees and gather around them for their Yuletide parties.

Many of these traditions have to do with Christmas. But the tradition  goes back long before Christ; all over the northern world, lighting up the night has been a profound symbol of enduring life in the dark time of the year. Think of the yule log, burning away in the hearth through the centuries.

And so this week I walked over to Toronto’s city hall once again, to see the skaters carving circles around the great rink under the lighted arches — and of course, the huge Christmas tree, ablaze with lights. Nowadays there’s a little added light, too, with the illuminated TORONTO sign casting its changing colours on the scene.

It was a sight that kindled a little warmth in my northern heart, even though the night was freezing cold. And I hope it does the same for you. Wherever you are, I wish you a very merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you observe, and a happy New Year. And a little light in the darkness.


About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.


  1. Merry Christmas Paul. Once again thank you for all the beautiful Pictures and putting in the effort needed to keep all your viewers entertained as we vicariously travel around the world with you. Happy New Year .

  2. Gary M. Mugford on


    Nice piece that hits the best notes of happy times and informative to boot. It ALSO lets me get in a quick well-wish to you for a Merriest of all Holiday Seasons and a safe, sane and Happiest of New Years. I hope the Old Guardian Geezers Glee Club and Debating Society can have a get-together in the new year. And I hope you, Ken Giles, Ken Koyama and Brian will be able to attend. We can swap lies and chuckle over chuckleheads and shake our heads at the state of our former common vocation. Thanks for your inspired words and I hope to see you soon. GM

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