It's Christmas Eve, the day before the day chosen to remember the birth of a baby.
It's popular to think of Christmas as being the "reason for the season," but as anyone who knows their history and theology knows, the winter celebration is about more than Jesus.
It is the season of lights.
The deepest, darkest day of winter, the Winter Solstice, has always been an important day for humans. That's when the new year used to begin. That's when the days would begin to grow longer, and the promised return of spring became real. It's unfortunate that over the centuries the calendar has been adjusted, corrected and manipulated so that the new year no longer falls on Winter Solstice.
And it has also been the custom to celebrate the arrival of kings and man-gods on Winter Solstice. Jesus is just the latest to receive this honor, although again, various circumstances have skewed things so that Christmas misses Winter Solstice on the modern calendar by four days.
And we cannot overlook Hanukkah, another religious tradition that recognizes the despair of darkness, and the hope of light.
It is no accident that all of these things come at this time of year. This is the season of lights, a time when all of us can celebrate the changing of the season, the elongation of days, and the return of light. With the new year come new opportunity and hope.
New Orleanians are experiencing this in a very special way this year. Having had our city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, we are more than ready for a new beginning. We're ready to close out 2005, a year that will reside in the history of catastrophe next to 1965 and 1927.
We're looking for any sign of help, any indication that this winter will end soon, and that our city will again bloom.
The darkness is inescapable. Whole areas of the city, neighborhoods and boulevards that used to be lit up with life are now dark. Even the street lamps are off. Even the porch lights are extinguished.
To celebrate this season of lights, some of us have put up the traditional holiday decorations. In the part of the city where I now reside, the "sliver by the river," there are homes and businesses with bright and colorful Christmas lights. And why not? We need the light. We crave the light.
I continue to cling to the belief that the light is coming. I have hope this season of lights will be the threshold to better things, the birth of a new year that will bring a new New Orleans.
Happy Holidays to all.