Who wouldn’t want to fill their world with pretty lights?


by Davila Doyari

Canada-Central African Republic

Christmas Lights

Huma was sure she’d seen Christmas lights before; not that she paid much attention to them, but she knew about the Christmas tradition of putting on lights as a decoration; it just always seemed like something other people did. She was now living among the “other” people; the ones who used ladders to climb on roofs in winter, sometimes in the snow, to put multi-colored lights on their roofs, porches, and trees; it all seemed so childish to her, yet another proof of some cultures’ “strangeness.”

She was grateful that her children were learning to like the snow because she could not get used to the cold of Burlington. Her first experience of walking on a snowy day sent her to bed in tears; she went home numb from head to toe. She couldn’t stop shaking for hours after, every part of her body hurt: her face, teeth, her fingers and her feet, they were frozen and burning.  The thought that she might have to face this season every year for the rest of her life depressed her.

The cold was the first cause of anxiety, but not the only, lately it’s also been the distance from her family, the language, the pressure of having to reinvent herself and become this modern, adventurous woman… If she was still living in Afghanistan, she would be in Kabul with her entire family and all her in-laws; but the year had been full of surprises, one of them being her family moving to Canada.

Canada felt too big for her, too vast and now impossibly cold; there was so much going on that she never realized at what point she had made the Christmas lights on her street her anchor; they felt like small prayers, wishes twinkling. There was no guarantee those wishes would ever come true, but it was comforting to know that you were still capable of hoping for more; and that’s also what Canada was to her – a prayer, an opportunity, a dream.

She asked everyone she knew how the tradition started:

“So the tradition is apparently an old European one, from the 17th century, that people would bring in their greeneries inside to protect them from the cold, they placed lights on the trees to illuminate them.  Actually it used to be candles.” a friend told her.

” Real light?”

“ yes, real lights.”

“I mean real candles?”

“Real candles.”

“What an extraordinary story!”

Huma didn’t ask why; she understood how they made her feel and that answered all her questions. There had been big changes in 2021 but when the cold winds made her shiver, the colorful lights on the street warmed her heart.

What seemed childish to her before, was now proof of the genius of her new people.

“Who wouldn’t want to fill their world with pretty lights, given the choice?”