Covid is like Dr. Seuss' Grinch this year, putting the "bah humbug" in treasured family traditions. (Nothing like mixing a couple of Christmas metaphors, but when the situation fits ...)
Despite the pandemic, a Hutchinson neighborhood continued to offer Christmas cheer.
Last Saturday, December 19, was the 35th year for the luminaries in the Hyde Park area of Hutchinson. Annually, it's a one-night only holiday event, with an estimated 17,000 of the holiday luminaries lining the neighborhood from Main to Monroe between 18th to 23rd Avenues.
Luminaries - or farolitos - are small paper lanterns, popular in Hispanic culture. They first gained popularity in the U.S. in New Mexico at Christmas time, especially on Christmas Eve. According to Wikipedia, the early versions were actually small bonfires of crisscrossed piñon
branches which were built in three-foot high squares. Today, most luminaries
are made from brown paper bags, weighted down with sand, and illuminated from within by a lit candle. I was surprised: I figured more would feature battery-powered candles, but all the ones I examined had real candles and flames.
Luminaries are typically arranged in rows to create large and elaborate displays.
In the Hispanic culture, the hope is that the lights will guide the spirit of the Christ Child to one's home.
In recent times they are seen more as a secular decoration, akin to Christmas lights. Most years, the Hyde Park neighborhood has offered wagon rides, visits with Santa, carolers and other fun. But this year, with restrictions for social distancing because of Covid-19, the lights took center stage.
Just like most North Americans, I was outside to try and see the Christmas Star last night. My real camera died at the end of my time in Hutchinson Saturday night, but I never have any luck with moon and star shots anyway. On Snapshot Kansas last night, I saw some of the equipment a few real photographers were using to capture the scene, with cameras attached to telescopes. And even they weren't getting the image we've been associating with the Wise Men since we first saw the scene illustrated in our colorful children's Bibles.
My cell phone images were forgettable. Some headlights and a brake light on the Zenith Road provided a few more bursts of light. But we enjoyed our excursion and are glad we could experience something that hadn't happened since 1623.
Astronomers call it a great conjunction, with Saturn and Jupiter cozying up in the night sky. It's also been called the “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem” because of its brightness and proximity to Dec. 25. The conjunctions occur every 20 years, and this was the closest the planets had appeared since the Middle Ages, according to the NASA website.
I'd begun my quest at sunset, and, as usual, Kansas skies did not disappoint.
But I still need to find the silver linings anywhere I can. After all, we are again celebrating the Light of the World.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas - no matter what it looks like this year!