It has always been fascinating to me how different cultures around the world seem to develop similar traditions in accordance with seasonal changes. For example, many cultures honor the time of the winter solstice with feasting, lighting candles, making special crafts, and exchanging gifts. These celebratory practices can be found on every continent during the time of transition from winter darkness to increasing light.
In India and beyond Diwali, which means "row of lamps" is a five day Hindu celebration of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil. Celebrants wear their finest clothes, light diyas or small lamps, and eat mithai or sweets flavored with cardamom, rose water, nuts or saffron.
Each winter solstice in China, Japan, and Korea people honor the increasing daylight in an over 2,000 year-old celebration. On this day many believe they turn a year older with the returning light of the sun. Highlights of the festivities include eating tang yuan (meaning "family reunion") or glutinous rice balls in a sweet broth. Flavored with red bean paste, ground sesame, or crushed peanuts, consuming the red-colored balls symbolizes unity and prosperity and is thought to bring good luck in the year ahead.
Across humanity the winter season inspires us to kindle the light within, to gather together, to create beauty through food and craft, and to celebrate the joys of life.