School Shows

Season of Light

Season of Light

Image of the logo for the planetarium program Season of Light

Produced by Loch Ness Productions
Groton, MA

Detailed description:
Dusk settles on a winter night and the constellations Orion, the Great Dog, Taurus and Gemini come into view. At this time of year, when nights are longest, we celebrate with ceremonies of light.

The reason that nights are long is due to the tilt of the earth as it orbits around the sun. In summer the sun rises early and transits high in the sky. In winter the sun rises late and transits low in the south. Ancient cultures watched the movement of the sun, and feared it would not turn back. They lit bonfires to strengthen the sun, and began celebrations that have been modified into the holidays we celebrate today.

Many of our decorations and traditions can be traced back to earlier celebrations. Greens and gifts were a part of the Roman Saturnalia and Calends (New Year) celebrations. Fires date back to the burning of the Yule log in Scandinavia and candles in the windows have an Irish history. Christmas trees became popular as German customs were adopted into the New World, and the Dutch tradition brought Sinterklaas across the ocean to become Santa Claus.

The holiday lights and symbols also connect with the Christmas Star. The record of the star in the Bible’s book of Matthew offers few clues about what it may have been. With a little detective work it is possible to narrow the time span to a few years before the beginning of the common era. What kind of events may have been seen by the Magi, or wise men who followed the star? Possible candidates considered include new stars or novas, comets or groupings of planets.

Can we identify the actual Christmas star? Not really, but we can celebrate the star as one symbol lighting the darkest time of the year.