Flame of Bethlehem spreads light throughout the world – a relatively new Austrian tradition is born and shared
Spreading light as a symbol of peace.
Unto You A Child…
For over 17 years, a child, typically from Upper Austria (also the birth place of Silent Night, by the way) has traveled to Bethlehem to light a lantern from a flame burning at the Star of Nativity Church in the cave that marks the place of birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The Austrian child then flies with the explosion-proof lantern to Vienna. During a holy mass (this year held in the Vienna Votive Church on December 14), the flame is shared with children delegates throughout Austria and Europe, who then transport the Bethlehem
light back to their hometowns. On December 24, on Christmas Eve, the flame is set out in public places such as boy scout organizations, fire departments and red cross stations and shared with the general public. Every year Austrians pilgrim with lanterns in hand to the flame brought from Bethlehem to light their candles for Christmas celebrations. The “Light of Peace” or “Bethlehem Light” lanterns are then used to light the candles throughout the household for the Christmas Eve celebrations.
Send Forth Your Light (Psalm 43:3)
Originally the Christmas ritual was confined to Austria, however in 1989, the boy scouts picked up the tradition and arranged to share the flame of peace with other boy scout troops throughout Europe. In 1991, the light traveled eastward under the name “Bethlehem Light.” The Slovakian boy scouts pick up the
light in Vienna and then pass it on from Slovakia over the border to boy scouts in Poland where it continues on to Lithuania, Belorussia, Ukraine and Russia. In 1995 with Austria’s entry into the EU, the light first traveled to Strasbourg, where it has been transferred ever since via the European Parliament to over 30 other European nations.
Turning Darkness Into Light
The Light of Peace from Bethlehem tradition was started by the (Upper) Austrian Public Television Station (ORF) as part of an initiative to collect donations for charities.
Let there Be Peace on Earth
In 2001, because of the unstable conditions in Israel, children from Israel brought the Light of Peace to Austria and during Advent the flame was sent to NYC where it burned at Ground Zero in remembrance of 9/11. In 2012, again because of the conflict in the Middle East and lack of security, rather than sending a child to fetch the flame, an Arabic child transported the light to Tel Aviv where it was then flown to Austria.
Check out the website with more English info: Peace Light Website and efforts to introduce the tradition to the US.
Where to find your Light of Peace in the USA
A very cool map shows where to get your Light of Peace in the States: Peace Light MapTexas and North Carolina – where are you guys?! Get gemütlich and someone driving home for the Holidays from the north, spread some light southward!
Where to find your Light of Peace in Austria
The Austrian Boy Scouts‘ Website lists the locations and times when they are offering the light of Peace on December 24: https://www.ppoe.at/aktionen/friedenslicht/archiv/friedenslichtverteilung10.html
On Friday, December 20, 2013, the Peace of Light traveled on the IC 543 train to the St. Pölten Train Station where it was then distributed to all the train stations throughout the country and will be available to the public of December 24.
Available in Vienna at several of the city’s cemeteries: http://www.friedhoefewien.at/eportal/ep/contentView.do/pageTypeId/13572/programId/22031/contentTypeId/1001/channelId/-26793/contentId/22608
All ORF state studios (Austrian Public TV stations): http://kundendienst.orf.at/kontakte/landesstudios.html
In Vienna at the following Red Cross Offices: Blood donation center on Dec 24 from 8 am – 1 pm, Wiedner Hauptstr 32, 1040 Vienna, and 8 am – 4 pm at Nottendorfer Gasse 21, 2nd floor,room 223, 1030 Vienna, U3 Erdberg (subway station), exit Nottendorfer Gasse. Use main entrance and follow signs to “Friedenslicht.”
In Vienna at the Fire Department Am Spitz, Weisselgasse 3, 1210Vienna, from 9.00am until noon.