Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Feast of Lights: flashback

[I'm reposting one of my most popular blog articles, originally posted in December 2008, in celebration of Hanukkah. Thanks to my wonderful commenters, I have the composer's name, correct lyrics and a YouTube video now! Happy Holidays to all.] 

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, Feast of Lights, composed by Frederick Silver:

Video credit: The Primes Girl Choir of South Florida performs "A Feast of Lights" by Fredrick Silver live during the 2010 Winter Concert "Timbrel and Harp" on December 11, 2010, at Second Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Associate Director: Gretchen Fasulo.

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 yet strong

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

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

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


  1. I believe this was the Argonne Bicycle Club XMAS party and people like Henry Karplus who was Jewish, had tear-filled eyes.

  2. When am I going to see some cute photos of my grand kids?

  3. have you been able to find the sheet music for this song? I am still looking...


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