Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Feast of Lights: flashback

Back when my dad worked at the National Labs, many of his coworkers came from all over the globe. Highly educated engineers, physicists, and scientists from Germany, Poland, China, India, or Russia all found important work to do in their fields alongside Americans from across the country. No matter their religion, when December came around in the '70s, there was an office Christmas Party, complete with Santas everywhere, angels and reindeer, and songs about glorifying the savior's birth. Christianity was assumed, but if you were Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim you came to the party anyway, because you were expected to or just to celebrate the spirit of the season (and there was free food!). In the time before political correctness, expecting a nod toward any non-Christian religion at a mainstream office party was too much to hope for.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my sister M. and I featured regularly in the singing at the ANL Xmas parties. We dutifully learned our songs in elementary school chorus class to prepare for the annual Christmas choral program. We were pretty good! Our little eight- and six-year-old voices were sweet and earnest. One year at his office party, my dad asked us to sing our favorite Christmas carol. After a brief conference (in which I argued for my favorite, a beautiful song in a haunting minor key), we sang this lovely song:

I remember Mama lighting the Menorah,
Then covering her head she'd start to pray.
When Papa finished reading from the Torah,
 
Mama, smiling down on me, would say:

May your days and nights
Be a feast of lights
The eternal flame, may it glow in you,
And the Holy One,
May He know in you
only love.

May the light of peace
Shine and never cease
And the glow of wisdom illumine in you
May you never hate, though it's human to
May you know love.


May you go through life
With your head up to the sky
May you never walk in shame
In sight of the light of the One
Who has no name
This I wish for you.

May your days and nights
Be a feast of lights
Have a warmth for all of humanity
For without it, life is but vanity
May you have love.

May you have faith, and
May you have strength, and
May the Lord grant
Your life will have length
May it be sweet but strong 


May your days and nights  
Be a feast of lights
Your whole life long. 



(There are more verses, but the Internets fail me for locating them. Update: third verse contributed by Anonymous! Thanks! 2nd Update: More verses added by additional anonymous readers! Again, many thanks.)

Of all the many unsuspecting, long-suffering Jewish coworkers at the Christmas party? There was not a dry eye.

Happy Belated Chanukah, Merry Christmas, or whichever holiday you celebrate this season. May you know love.

26 comments:

  1. I think the words to another verse were something like this:

    May you go through life
    With your head up to the sky
    May you never walk in shame
    In sight of the light of the one
    Who has no name
    May it glow in you

    Maybe if enough people come across this page and contribute what they remember, we can piece together the song!

    Happy Hanukkah!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. nope, not "May it glow in you" in that part. The correct line there is, "THIS I WISH FOR YOU"
      The words and music for this song were written by composer, FREDERICK SILVER
      (I have the sheet music in front of me)
      There are no more verses than the ones posted at the top of the thread, just the correction of the imperfect recollections of lyrics posted by some brain burned-out ones (well-meaning though unfortunately misguided).

      Delete
    2. hello i need the sheet music for this song... where did you get the sheet music

      Delete
  2. Merry Christmas! That is a lovely song!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I found this page doing a search for this song. i remember singing it in school and have never heard it since. Does anyone know of a recording of it anywhere? LSturges AT comcast DOT net

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  4. Those were good times. I'm so glad you think so too! Dad

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  5. I'm starting to wonder if this music was distributed only to certain public school choral programs in the Midwest?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope. I learned it in New Hampshire, and have been haunted by it ever since!

      Delete
    2. Wow! I've been humming this tune and singing as much as I could remember of the lyrics for 34 years or so. I learned it in chorus at a public elementary school in Maryland. My family had just moved from the South and I was raised Baptist; initially I didn't know what a menorah or the Torah were. No matter what religion or denomination, we should all be blessed by loving parents and learn from their righteous behavior. Thank you.

      Delete
  6. I also remember this song from elementary school. During a family dinner this year, I sang a bit of it and no one had heard of it. I found this thread looking for the song title/lyrics too. I grew up in Maryland so it was not just taught in the Midwest.

    ReplyDelete
  7. OK, not Midwest-only, but just public schools? I'd love to get more verses here!

    Does anyone remember a verse that ended, "This I wish for you..."

    That sticks in my head, but I can't remember the preceding lyrics.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I posted a verse earlier - I think this is the last part of the song. The tune differs here:

    "May have faith
    And may you have strength
    And may the lord grant
    Your life wil have length

    May it be sweet yet strong
    May you through life with your head up to the sky
    Your whole life, long!"

    Also, one change: I believe the last two lines of the first verse are:
    "When papa finished reading from the Torah
    Mama smiling down on me would say"

    ReplyDelete
  9. i think there is an additional verse that goes something like
    "May your days and nights be a feast of lights and a warmth for all of humanity.
    For without it, life is just vanity; May you know love"

    i'm not sure of the words, but humanity and vanity is in there, i thing.

    ReplyDelete
  10. my son's class sang this in elementary school for the holiday performance - it does have more verses, and after "may it glow in you" it goes on with one more verse and then a wrap-up in a different tempo, a finishing section:

    May your days and nights
    Be a feast of lights
    Have a warmth for all of humanity
    For without it life is but vanity
    May you have love.

    May you have love and
    May you have strength and
    May the Lord grant
    Your life will have length
    May it be sweet but strong

    And may your days and nights
    be a feast of lights
    Your whole life long.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oops - another note from the performance where my son's class did this song:
    In the fourth paragraph after "Who has no name" was sung, the next line was "This I pray for you". The "May it glow in you" as added by another commentator to the fourth paragraph was used only once, in the second paragraph.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The last sentence is:
    "This I wish for you"
    but I could be this,
    May it glow in you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm in my mid 40s and I sang this in a 9th grade girls choral ensemble in southern CA, so it wasn't just the midwest.

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  14. p.s. I found it on YouTube. This is the one we sang anyway. :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1QI8Vgaieo

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  15. I check this thread once a year to see if anyone has added to it. Found a recorded version today! http://www.amazon.com/Seattle-Holiday-Jerome-Wright/dp/B00000E7S4

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  16. I went to an American school in Japan, and our chorus/music teacher had us sing this lovely song. She got all of her choral materials from the US. Anyway, it was a private school, so it wasn't just children in public schools who performed this one. (Or, maybe the teacher just brought back public school material to give us!) I've been looking for this song forever. Thank you, thank you to all of you for piecing this together and finding the recordings. And, Happy Hanukkah!!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks everyone!! I just added another update based on more recent comments. Keep commenting!

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  18. May you have FAITH, and may you have strength and may the Lord grant your life will have length. May it be sweet yet strong.
    I grew up in CA and we sang this in high school too! I LOVE this song!!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi, the song, A FEAST OF LIGHTS, was composed by FREDERICK SILVER, words and music. Out of respect for the composer and the way he wrote the song, it would be good to get the accurate lyrics. Here is a link to a youtube vid of young florida girls choir singing the correct lyrics.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmRfwWnD12w
    shalom!
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks again everyone! I'm reposting this article entirely with video as a new article, since we have so much new information. Go here to read the latest updates:
    http://nylonthread.blogspot.com/2011/12/feast-of-lights-flashback.html

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thank you! I was teaching my 3 year old about Hannukah a few nights ago and sang her part of this song. I sang it in the 90's at a private school in Florida. She loved it, but I could only remember the very first "may your days and nights" verse. This made her very happy to hear the rest!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Wow! I have been searching for all of the lyrics from this song for years! I also am in my early 40's and grew up in Southern California. I was in choir, and being that I was the token Jew, I sang this song as a solo. I've always wanted to teach my own young daughters this song....and now I can! THANK YOU!!!

    ReplyDelete

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