Finding the Light During the Holiday Season at Meijer Gardens

Finding the Light During the Holiday Season at Meijer Gardens

By Barbara K. Stump, MA

It seems like winter has come early this year. Have you ever been snowed in?   I experienced this phenomenon last weekend. My new home is in Traverse City, so I guess this is going to take some adjustment. It is breathtaking when you can see across the lake, kind of like a Hallmark movie if you can imagine. However, with the temperature dropping, the recent time change, and mother nature’s snow machine kicking in, it can become very dark here even during the day.  I am missing the summer sunlight, and I definitely feel better with more light. The thought of putting up my Christmas tree before Thanksgiving has entered my mind the last couple of days. Maybe that would help?!

Perhaps some of you have already put your holiday lights up. Why did you decide to do this?  Is it a tradition for you and your family?  What holiday do you observe during this time of year?  Many of us connect holiday lights with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.  Although lights are used during holidays all around the world.

*Christmas lights started with the German tradition of hanging candles on evergreen trees, and with the English by putting candles in windows. The Advent wreath contains four candles and is celebrated by many Christian denominations.

*Hanukkah includes the lighting of the Menorah, and is occasionally referred to as the Festival of Lights.  The Menorah has eight candles for each night of Hanukkah, and there is a ninth candle in the middle which is used to light the other candles. It is often put in windows to spread light to others.

*Kwanzaa includes lighting the kinara, a candle holder, for that day’s principle on that specific candle holder. There are seven key principles to be observed. The lighting is used for contemplation and reflection.

As I mentioned earlier, the observance of holiday  lights can be seen all around the world.  If you have an opportunity to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you will see many countries and cultures celebrated with decorations on numerous trees.  This year they are highlighting how diverse cultures use light with holiday traditions from November 22, 2022 to January 8, 2023.  The “Christmas & Holiday Traditions” exhibit is sponsored by the University of Michigan Health-West.  If you have a chance to see this exhibit, do you have a country in mind you might want to find? Possibly a country you would like to visit some day, or one which reflects your own heritage would be interesting to see and read about there.

When I go to this exhibit, I am amazed by all the decorated trees and cultures represented. The Canadian and English trees remind me of my mother. My mom was very proud of her Canadian heritage. She would place Christmas crackers at our dinner table. They make a snapping sound when you pull them apart and usually contain a hat, a small gift, and a game. She would serve traditional English food, and make a delicious and beautifully decorated  bread called stollen. This was often made to be gifted to family and friends. If you know what Boxing Day is, yes, we celebrated that as well! Canadian, eh?!!

A picture of me at Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, a few years back, standing by the tree representing England.

What holiday traditions do you share with your family?  What do you look forward to most during the holidays? Do you have time to create or make things for others as gifts? Do you enjoy holiday baking and/or eating those special treats? Maybe this holiday season you are not really looking forward to celebrating? I know I have experienced a few of those in my lifetime as well. If so, I hope this recent snowfall has helped to get you into the holiday spirit, or to start thinking of ways to brighten the dark moments when they enter our lives. If you have time to visit Meijer Gardens this holiday season, I think you will find it enlightening and enjoyable reminiscing about holiday traditions. The artistry of the trees is beautiful, and there are other magnificent holiday displays to see.  Traditions can teleport us back to our childhood, our memories, and remind us of who we are and those we love.

Barb is an Art Education Consultant and G3 Contributing Writer. Her posts focus on how the arts and culture intertwine and support mental health. Her upcoming series ‘Art Passport’ will look at ways that we can use art to transport ourselves to happy times and evoke feelings of peace and comfort.