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Get Growing: Enjoy the light of the holiday season with care

Burning candles with Christmas lights in background

Burning candles with Christmas lights in background

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year with the longest night. It is probably no accident that light plays such an important part in the religious and cultural celebrations of December.

Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, has just ended and Christmas is on Tuesday.

Kwanzaa, which features lighting of a new candle each day for seven days, begins on Wednesday. Five years ago I wrote a Home Magazine article on the three festivals, linking their use of light. This past week I was reminded of the article when I read a story in the Gazette about Emily Rosenfeld, a Florence artist who crafts gorgeous menorahs. She was featured in my Home Magazine story.

My neighbors Alberto Morales and Yaniris Fernandez continue their tradition of lighting an outdoor blue spruce on Thanksgiving Day just as they did in my article. And friends reported having a delicious African meal at Bakus in Amherst, treating Amherst College students from Nigeria and Kenya to a taste of home cooked by the owner, Patricia Ononibaku, who kindly set up Kwanzaa candles for my Gazette article.

Enjoy your family traditions this holiday season—but be careful with those lights. Don’t leave Christmas tree lights or electric candles lit while you dash out for last-minute shopping. Snuff candles if you leave the room. And make sure you use UL-rated electric light strings designed for outdoor use for landscape displays. Keep trees and other flammable decorations away from fireplaces, wood stoves and heating units.

Happy Holidays.

BE LOCAL, BUILD LOCAL: Voting was very close among participants in the People’s Choice Award at the recent exhibition of local architecture at the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. The winner was the EcoBuilding Bargains store in Springfield designed by Caryn Brause of SITELAB Architecture and Design of Northampton. Brause also had another design in the exhibition, a rain garden in Washington, D.C. She teaches at the University of Massachusetts and previously worked in New York City where she designed the new Discovery Room at the American Museum of Natural History, among other projects. The EcoBuilding Bargains store, 83 Warwick St., Springfield is owned by the Center for EcoTechnology and features repurposed materials in addition to being a well-insulated retrofit of a 100-year-old building.

NAKED SHRUBS: Learn to identify shrubs by their bark and buds, branching pattern, habitat and persistent berries at a winter workshop at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary on Jan. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Roland “Boot” Boutwell is the teacher for the class sponsored by the New England Wildflower Society. The fee is $25, members of NEWFS or Arcadia $20. Register online at www.newenglandwild.org. Call Arcadia at 584-3009 for details.

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