Gems, Light and Life - Diverse Winter Celebrations
For festivals and celebrations all over the world, lights and color hold great importance. For example, the Hindu festival Diwali, held in late October or early November, is also known as the "Festival of Lights". The lights symbolize the triumph of light over darkness and goodness over evil.
In our gem town of Chanthaburi, Thailand, we are lucky enough to have three colorful celebrations at this time of year. During the full moon of November, we have Loy Krathong, when colorful floats made from banana trees that are filled with flowers and candles are floated on water to thank the water goddess and bring good luck for the next year. We also have a thriving Catholic community who celebrate Christmas with color and cheer (see image, right), welcoming everybody to join in the festivities. Lastly, the New Year is a joyful occasion. This year's celebrations will be quite somber due to the passing of our beloved King Rama 9.
While we look forward to this time of year, since it brings lovely cool weather, the Winter Solstice of the Northern Hemisphere can be quite a dark and gloomy time in some parts of the world, with short days and long nights. This may be why bright colors, fires, lamps and decorations have been used for many years, to introduce warmth and brightness. For example, the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and the reclamation of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. During this time, candelabrums are lit, one flame at a time until the eighth night, when all eight flames burn brightly; symbolizing the miraculous light that burned in the Holy Temple for eight days despite insufficient oil.
The relatively new Pan-African festival of Kwanzaa, from December 26th until January 1, celebrates the harvest with dancing, singing and feasting. On each night of Kwanzaa a child lights one of the seven candles which symbolize the seven principles. The candles are red, green and black; the colors of the flag designed by Marcus Garvey. The colors represent blood, the land and skin color, respectively.
Perhaps the reason why we love sparkly gemstones so much is that their colors and the light reflected from them remind us of such joyous celebrations, which connect light, love and life. The light reflected back to the eye from gemstones is known as "brilliance". Gems with high refractive indices possess great brilliance; one of the reasons why they are so highly valued for their sparkle. Such brilliant gemstones include diamond, sphene, zircon, garnet, sapphire and ruby.
The New Year festival of Hogmanay in Scotland lights the dark winter sky up with fires, flaming torches and fireballs, originally believed to purify the place by dispelling the bad spirits of the previous year. This fiery spectacle certainly warms the spirits of all involved and mesmerizes visitors with dancing flames. In the world of colored gemstones, "fire" has a different meaning. It is the splitting of light into its spectral colors and is referred to as "dispersion". Some of the gemstones that are known to have a high dispersion and therefore, intense "fire" are diamond, demantoid garnet, sphene, sphalerite and zircon.
Light not only brightens up the dark, but it sustains life on our planet. Thus, there is little wonder why we value light so much and use it in celebration. Whatever it is that you're celebrating this December let it be full of light, color and life, with some added fire and brilliance, for a jolly gemmy time. All of us at GemSelect wish you very happy holidays.
- First Published: December-08-2016
- Last Updated: March-22-2017
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