Thanks to the light of the sun, our bodies receive warmth and our eyes can see the path before us. The sun’s light also helps plants grow, providing us with food to eat. When the sun sets, though, not all is lost. A WONDERful world of artificial lights springs to life.

The lights that brighten the nighttime can seem almost magical. From soft candlelight to the bright glow of neon, lights of all sorts can both light our path and light us from the inside by warming our hearts with various emotions.

In fact, light is a powerful symbol in popular holidays all over the world. But why is that? Does light have the same meaning for everyone? The exact details may differ, but in many celebrations light represents a sense that goodness will overcome evil.

In Christianity, a bright star is a key symbol in the story of Christmas. And for many people, it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without a tree trimmed in twinkling lights and seeing light displays that decorate windows and entire houses.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is known as the “Festival of Lights” and commemorates the miracle when a single day’s supply of oil lasted for eight days. A typical celebration of Hanukkah involves lighting a menorah, which holds nine candles: eight Hanukkah candles and a “Shamash” candle that is used to light the others.

Each evening during Kwanzaa, a family member lights candles in a special candle holder and there is a discussion of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

India’s most important holiday of the year, Diwali, is held in October or November each year and marked by family gatherings, glittering clay lamps, festive fireworks, strings of electric lights, and bonfires.

Tet is the Vietnamese new year, and people celebrate by making offerings for friendship and family and lighting joss sticks on the family alter several times a day.

Can you think of any other holidays that involve light as a symbol? For example, could you imagine Independence Day in the United States without a spectacular fireworks display lighting up the night sky?

What is it about light that makes these holidays and other events, such as birthdays, special? Perhaps it is the simple beauty of candles or tiny lights in the darkness, like the stars that light the night sky. Millions and millions of people have drawn inspiration from the night sky. Perhaps candles and other forms of light inspire our souls in the same way.

How does light inspire you? Have you ever been moved with emotion when you woke up early and saw a spectacular sunrise? Or what about a brilliant orange sunset? Have you ever been mesmerized by the glow of lights from the skyline of a big city at night? Think about it. What is it about these lights that lights you up inside?

6 Join the Discussion

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  1. Merry Christmas Wonderopolis! :D :D :D :D :D

    Today I am going to film a Federal Signal 2001-130 siren. It is at the Jerome Township Park in Plain City, Ohio. It will be my first non-Whelen siren I see going off in person. It goes off at 12:00 PM every Wednesday.

    Oh, and first comment again! :)

    • Merry Christmas to you, TJ! Thanks so much for WONDERing with us! That’s so cool to hear about the siren! Keep WONDERing and Happy Holidays! :)

      • Remember what I said about filming a siren? I did film it, however it did not go off. I didn’t really know when Plain City tests their sirens. Do any of you guys know when Plain City tests their sirens? ;)

        TJ :)

        • Hi TJ! We don’t know about the Plain City test sirens! We’d love for you to tell us about them! Thanks for WONDERing! :)

  2. Lights make me feel joyful and make me smile and laugh. I love Christmas and Hanukkah. And this is how the light makes me light up inside.

    • Hi Connor, that’s WONDERful! We love the holidays too! Do you ever go around and look at all of the Christmas lights? It’s so fun! Happy Holidays and Keep WONDERing! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What makes you light up inside?
  • What holidays include lights as an important symbol?
  • How can you light up others’ lives?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to light up your world? Find a few of your brightest friends and family members to help you explore one or more of the following activities:

  • How many different types of lights can you find around your house? You probably have plenty of electric lights. If you look carefully, though, you might have more than one type of light bulb. Some may be regular incandescent bulbs, while others may be newer energy-saving bulbs. You might also have fluorescent lights in some rooms. What about candles? Do any LED lights shine on televisions, electronics or other appliances? Wait until after dark and then turn off all the lights in your house. Wait until your eyes adjust to the darkness and then go exploring. What can you see in the dark? Are there some types of lights that stay on all the time? Think about how wonderful it is that illumination is just a switch away!
  • Want to have some hands-on fun learning more about light? Check out Light Box Magic online and give it a try. You’ll need a box, plastic bottles, water, tape and scissors. You might also want some food coloring, paint, bleach, foil and cups. Have fun learning about light with this interesting experiment!
  • Has someone lit up your life recently? Think about a recent time that someone made you feel really special. Take some time to write a journal entry about that experience. What about it made you feel special? Was it unexpected? If you want, share your thoughts with the person that made you feel special. You never know when sharing your experience will make them feel special, too. Brainstorm ideas of how you can make others feel special in the same way. Take some time today to go out of your way to do a random, unexpected act of kindness that might just make someone light up on the inside. Kindness in this way can be contagious. You could start a chain reaction of good feelings!

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Education’s Bioluminescence: Living Light activity, children learn about bioluminescence and conduct an experiment to learn how ocean animals use bioluminescence for camouflage.

Test Your Knowledge

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