January 30: Thoughts for the Day

About three years ago, a friend shared with me that, each year on the anniversary of her father’s death, she burns a yahrzeit candle. She said, “It’s a Jewish tradition to mark the day with a candle that burns for 24 hours. I watched my father burn a candle every year for his mother, the candle light flickering on the walls at night. Now it flickers for him.” There is something to be said for such a powerful tradition.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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7 Responses to January 30: Thoughts for the Day

  1. Trish says:

    And one last note to add to this delightful theme, was when Robin and I discovered the correlation between the yahrzeit, and the altar she so heartfelt puts on those anniversaries, with the celebration I adopted so many years ago, Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Though in a collective form, I faithful arrange my altar with memoirs, photos, incense, and of course candles….many candles, for many people. Here the belief is that candles represent light or “lumbre” to light the path of the dead. Purple candles mean pain, pink celebration, and white for hope. I feel in adopted these traditions has kept me between earth and the sky, and fills the spirit of one..

  2. Trish says:

    John, I wouldn’t denounce the hand shaking, at least not right away. In-between all the Slavic hugging and kissing with my father, he’d also said that he could tell volumes about another man with the causal handshake. He had told me you could somewhat detect their occupation, i.e. someone that labors versus office job, or possibly an artist. The strength in the shake was apparently also important to him. Not to say he was looking for the limp limb shake (he must be gay attitude), no, he went on to say that you could detect a mans level of confidence. It’s funny how I remember him in big family weddings as a child, and I observed three sign languages when I saw him hand shaking with men he didn’t know. He’d stare them straight in the eye, extend his right hand for the shake, and if he initially found this man okay in his eyes, he would follow up with his left hand grabbing their right arm just about the elbow. He may have been old school, but he seemed to be very able to read much in a simple “handshake.” 🙂

  3. Robin, when you told me about that tradition, it struck a chord with me; I really love it.

    Juan, I grew up without the tradition of hugging, at least among men, not even in my family. But as I matured and was exposed to hugs more and more, I adjusted and became comfortable with that tradition…and now I truly appreciate it. Even in my own family, it has become common for family, men and women alike, to hug. And I find more and more men are no longer as deathly afraid of hugs as once was the case…at least in the culture surrounding me. Hugs are wonderful expressions of friendship and love. the depth and richness of which handshakes cannot begin to approach.

    Trish, my experience with hugging those who were not used to it had a similar impact as yours; people quickly take a liking to it, I think!

  4. Trish says:

    Good for you Juanon!! In my fathers family, being they were Slavic, they were quite macho, however it wasn’t at all unusual that they, hugged, kissed both sides of the cheek, and yes, occasionally on the lips. A really smoochy, warm bunch! But this aspect of their culture also softened the macho tendency. And down here in Mexico,its a macholandia! The men do as you described, Juan “even” between family, friends, or good acquaintances will a hug, and then that big slap on the back as a follow up. Nevertheless, I’ve always loved this part of the Mexican culture…the kissing. You can see someone in the morning, you mutually hug and kiss. If you see them a few hours later, you will do it all again. It was so strange for me the 1st time I returned to the states after a long absences, and I hugged and kissed family and old friends, mis paisanos…it seemed the natural thing to do. So I latched on, and most didn’t know what to make of it. It was akin to hugging a statue! Later, knowing what to expect, they seem to fall into it. This actually gave me a new perspective, for I saw for the first time how standoffish some of our culture can be to touchy-feely…at least my experience was as such.

  5. Trish says:

    Strange, my mother used to light a candle for her mother on the anniversary of her death. She was not Jewish. But stranger yet, when I asked her why there was a lit candle on the fireplace mantle, she would not answer. Little did she know that I knew what that date represented to her. Now I wonder how she came to know the tradition.

  6. juanon says:


    I still hug, because it was instilled in me as a boy.

    It might be a total stranger introduced to me by a dear friend (sometimes not), and so while I hug my friend, I will in turn hug this new acquaintance, expressing total acceptance; it is in the vein of “mi casa es su casa.”

    Amongst my family, the hug is often accompanied with kisses, even between males. On a rare occasion — on the lips.

    When I was a young man, hugs between males, especially to those not familiar with this custom, also included the proverbial and “manly” slapping on the back, as if to express “this is not of gay intent.” Issues like that seemed so important back then. Machismo! How stupid and silly my mind worked in those days.

    But I am old man now, and the proverbial slapping on the back between men when hugging is no longer necessary to me. I hardly care. I embrace hard and deep and make a conscious effort not to slap the back, because it is pure that way — and best when it is simple and ignores the superfluous ego of social proximity, but on occasion, I must be reminded.

    Not long ago — possibly a month — a student of mine (male) had a deep conversation with me in my office. He confided in me problems with both home and college. I offered counsel in the best way I could, though I mostly listened. When you think about it, most people just want a listening ear.

    And so when all was said that could be said, we got up and I extended my hand, to which he said, “Mr. Flores, could I have a hug?” I smiled so big. My eyes glimmered with near tears, because youth had taught me a lesson here.

    I hugged him, and not a slap on the back from either side could be heard.

  7. robin andrea says:

    Imagine this, everyday a yahrzeit burns somewhere for someone. It is a beautiful tradition. Thank you for remembering.

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