A review of the major winter holidays celebrated in the United States reveals that only one is focused specifically on the growth and development of LGBT people. While Gay Pride celebrates the anniversary of Stonewall in June, the Bridge of Light on December 31 reveals the more reflective and spiritual side of the greater gay and lesbian community.
Many gay and queer people are noted for our love of merrymaking. We are celebrated entertainers, gracious party hosts, and unsurpassed in the art of throwing a fabulous splash with style. However, many of us are disconnected from the winter holiday season because of strained relationships with our families or a feeling of disconnection from the season's religious symbolism. Therefore the holidays can be a source of pain and loneliness.
Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga first celebrated Kwanzaa, the African-American cultural holiday, in 1966, and today it's celebrated by millions throughout the world African community. However, until Bridge of Light was founded in 2004, nobody ever celebrated a distinctively queer winter holiday.
Bridge of Light is an interfaith and omni-denominational cultural and spiritual tradition originating in 2004 and connected in its inspiration and organization to the Gay Spirit Culture Summit held that year, a gathering of 100+ spiritual leaders and change agents in the gay community.
Since then, the annual winter ritual (now in its fifth year) has helped to draw attention to the positive contributions made by members of the LGBT community in the areas of spiritual growth, inner transformation, and religious leadership.
The core of the tradition is a simple ritual of lighting six candles, one for each color of the rainbow flag, on New Year's Eve, plus a seventh candle on New Year's Day. Each color corresponds to a universal spiritual principle as well as the specific ways that this principle has found expression in the course of LGBT history and in our contemporary world.
On December 24, 2009, a major change in the descriptions of the principles underlying each of the colors of the rainbow was announced. Joe Perez, founder of the Bridge of Light tradition and author of the books "Soulfully Gay" and "Rising Up", credits meditations by Rev. Kittredge Cherry for more fully developing the insight that the colors of the rainbow flag are aligned to six of the seven colors of the chakras, the spiritual energy centers of the human body. Rev. Cherry is a lesbian Christian author, minister and art historian who offers gay-friendly spiritual resources at "JesusInLove.org".
According to Perez, the revised principles are intended to provide a starting point for individual and group meditations on the meaning of spirituality in the lives of members of the LGBT community. A red candle honors Community, an orange candle honors Eros, a yellow candle honors Self-Esteem, a green candle honors Self-Expression and Justice, a blue candle honors Wisdom, and a purple candle honors Spirit (Universal Consciousness).
These are the Seven Principles of the Bridge of Light, and complete instructions for celebrating the tradition:
Step 1. On New Year's Eve, light a red candle, the first of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Root of Spirit, the first chakra. Celebrate the evolution of Spirit in love and eroticism defined as it first arose in ancient spiritualities, including Wicca, paganism, and Goddess/pre-patriarchal religions (approximately 10,000 BCE and continuing to the present day).
Step 2. On New Year's Eve, light an orange candle as the second of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Fire of Spirit, the second chakra, the principle of Eros. Celebrate the evolution of Spirit in love and eroticism that first appeared in the era defined by the rise of the great divine and mortal heroes of the ancient world, celebrated in song and myths: Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Horus and Seth, Jonathan and David, Naomi and Ruth, and many more, beginning about 5,000 BCE.
Step 3. On New Year's Eve, light a yellow candle, the third of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Core of Spirit, the third chakra. Celebrate the evolution of Spirit in love and eroticism that first appeared in the era defined by the rise of the major world religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Confucianism), beginning about 500 BCE and continuing to the present day.
Step 4. On New Year's Eve, light a green candle, the fourth of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Heart of Spirit, the fourth chakra, and the principle of Love. The candle celebrates the evolution of Spirit in same-sex love, eroticism, and traditional gender role defiance in the era defined by the rise of the modernity in the industrial age and the beginning of modern democratic states (approximately 1,500 CE and continuing to the present day).
Step 5. On New Year's Eve, light a blue candle, the fifth of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Voice of Spirit, the fifth chakra, and the principles of Self-Expression and Justice. The candle celebrates the evolution of Spirit in same-sex love and gender role evolution in the era defined by the rise of Romanticism, Transcendentalism, late modernism, and early postmodern artists and pioneers (approximately 1,800 CE to the present day).
Step 6. On New Year's Eve, light a purple candle, the sixth of seven, and let it burn through New Year's Day. The candle honors the Eye of Spirit, the sixth chakra, and the principle of Wisdom. The candle honors the evolution of Spirit in pluralistic expressions of sexuality and gender in the era defined by the rise of the feminist, homophile movement, gay liberation movement, queer movement, and LGBTQ community in the past 50 to 100 years.
Step 7. On New Year's Day, light a white or pink candle, the seventh of seven. The candle honors the Crown of Spirit, the seventh chakra, and the principle of Spirit (Universal Consciousness). The candle honors the evolution of Spirit in the contemporary period and future generations to come, and the emerging integral connections between the struggle for gay liberation with the struggles for justice and dignity of all peoples throughout the world, the healing of the natural world, and the amelioration of suffering of all sentient beings.