The significance of light during the holidays


As we close in on the end of the year and we prepare for the holidays, the time is right to contemplate the role light plays in our lives during this special time. Personal experiences shape the perspectives of anyone looking to describe the evocative role light plays during the holidays and for me, the different aspects of light are connected through a myriad of experiences and emotions, connections to memories from childhood through adulthood, and the present year, 2021.

As a child, the end of the school term would be scheduled to conclude with a Christmas church service. The service would occur at dusk: day turning to night, light to dark. Crisp winter air and snow outside would contrast with the warm, glow of church candles inside, stained glass windows taking on meaning through color and light, the smell of centuries-old hard stone floors, worn wooden pews, and old, yellowed hymn books formed the base layer of the experience: the canvas upon which the content of the service would be painted. The shuffling feet, hymns, and carols, the occasional cough cutting through the various incantations, these elements became the top layer, the upper register or of sounds and experiences.

During these services, we were encouraged to consider what we had achieved over the last year. Had we made a positive contribution to our community and to ourselves? Had we been kind to others? The light in the church had heralded the gathering of a community and served to elicit joy, celebration,self-reflection, and spiritual connection. Many of the traditions involving light at Christmas evolved from northern European pagan celebrations - large bonfires, and “yule logs” and ultimately Christmas trees with their candles giving way to electric lights, all gestures heralding the advent of the Winter solstice and the return to longer days as the New Year approached. Like many other religions, this was a seasonal celebration of light, a symbol of hope and renewal, and a time for reflection.

I imagine one common thread for all humanity is the experience of staring silently into a warm, crackling fire, letting our thoughts wander…

"So this is Christmas..."

-John Lennon

Over the last 20 years or so in California, the light I have really grown to love and appreciate, emanates from the sky itself. The color of the blue is indescribable, and if wisps of clouds do arrive, they seem to get along so well together. Hiking along the coast during these crystal clear days allows me the same opportunities to reflect on the year that has passed, as did the light from the church in my youth.

Like many designers, I obsess over whether we are better than we were a year ago. Have we learned from our experiences? Are we happier as individuals and as a group? Luma is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2022, that’s quite a milestone. I would like to think we have incrementally improved over the years, that we have nurtured the growth and development of a culture that cares, a business that continues to strive for a balance between People, Planet, and Profit.

We are developing an installation for the Portland Winter Light Festival that takes this search for internal reflection to heart: Absence/Abundance addresses the synthesis of both elements in the creation of an environment that embraces darkness and stillness in which new perceptions are revealed. Abundance revealing itself as we engage and look closer. Absence reminding us of all that surrounds us that we no longer perceive.

Asking meaningful questions of ourselves during a period of societal turmoil and global pandemic is tough. We have all experienced personal sacrifices and in some cases, tragic personal losses, despite the setbacks, we remain optimistic. We take inspiration from the light, and look for guidance through it.