Seeing the Light


From the time we’re young, we resist darkness.

Children banish shadows with nightlights and bedroom doors left ajar to admit an incandescent shaft. Even adults avoid the dark by staring into the cool glow of late-night TV long after they should have surrendered to the black behind their eyelids.

This month, as we slip into the darkness of the winter solstice, we up the wattage in self-defense.

Instead of taking a cue from our hibernating fellow mammals, we string lights, sip sparkling wine, don sequined dresses, light candles, and flash glinting jewelry in defiance of the 16-hour shroud between sunset and sunrise.

Even figuratively speaking, we hate to be left in the dark.

The mystery of wrapped gifts taunts us. One Christmas, when my mother was a young bride and no one was looking, she shook and shook a gift-wrapped package sent from my father overseas, trying to discern the contents. Much to her horror, Christmas morning revealed a music box whose delicate mechanism she could have destroyed.

In this issue, we take some of the mystery out of gift giving by showcasing 45 ideas to surprise even the most curious characters in your life. And for holiday parties, we offer a little manufactured glow in the form of festive party fashions.

We also profile Leonard Slatkin, the new music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, a man who’s certain to enlighten metro Detroit audiences.

In so many regards, the ways in which we enliven our dark season haven’t changed much since ancient times. While the tulip bulbs and bears snooze, we gather around the piano, serve meals that honor ethnic rituals, and, as is popular again, drink mead, the rich honey-wine that warmed our ancestors.

This year, we could easily interpret the lack of daylight as a metaphor for the dark economic outlook. Instead of wallowing in that gloom, however, we may want to remember that moonlight has its own quiet beauty. Night is part of the natural cycle. Global organizations are actually working to reduce the “light pollution” that has virtually erased the stars from the night sky and upset biorhythms.

Darkness can make it easier to see the light. That was the case with the founding of Focus: HOPE, which was formed in the aftermath of the Detroit riots.

Every era has its fears. This month, as the dusk settles in well before dinner, we can gather and toast the celebration of our choice and remember that there’s no need to “go gentle into that good night.”

In that spirit, on behalf of our editorial staff — George, Cassidy, Aleene, and Jessica — may your days be bright.