The final, short weeks of December pass so quickly, one can easily get wrapped up in the season’s obligations and be distracted from its joys.

For those celebrating Christmas, today brings one final flurry of activity as last errands are completed and thoughts are drawn to hearth and home.

Last Friday in Seattle dawned the darkest day in more than two decades, with University of Washington measurements showing just 0.37 megajoules of solar radiation per square meter, the slightest sliver of the sunlight of a bright day in July. The following evening marked the winter solstice and the longest night of the year.

Bitter political and social divisions can add to the gloom, breeding cold feelings and dark thoughts. This week’s holidays help recast the dark as a time of peaceful stillness. A time to gather in the company of family, friends and neighbors. It can be no coincidence that so many religious and cultural celebrations fall during deep midwinter. The warm spark of community makes cold days more tolerable. In the gloom, eyes and attention naturally seek the light.

Whether it’s the twinkling strands twined around tree trunks or a more spiritual illumination, light shines clearer and more brightly in the darkness. A star of astonishing brilliance led kings and wise men to the nativity. A miracle kept the menorah burning for eight days during the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. A lighted kinara helps celebrants honor and reflect upon the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

But one need not adhere to any particular faith or tradition to feel the glow of this holiday season; to appreciate a little light in this season of introspection.

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Although long weeks of fleeting sunlight lie ahead, the days are steadily growing longer. Slowly, inexorably, spring and sunlight will return.

What better way to pass these slow and peaceful days than in a spirit of unity and reflection? In this time of darkness, to kindle and celebrate the light?