Have you ever walked through the centre on a Saturday night and seen people giving out candles and if so, do you know what that was for? Every third Saturday of the month the Night of Light is organised in Utrecht’s beautiful Dom Church. As you walk in, candle lights are twinkling, light music can be heard, and you feel like you just walked from the cold and windy Domplein into a parallel universe of welcoming peace and quiet.
In the evening around 8 PM, Domkerk opens its doors to anyone who would like to join. People from the City Pastoral hand out candles that you can light near the altar with the aid of other volunteers. The whole event is accompanied by lovely music – sometimes someone plays the organ, at other times a choir sings, and at a different occasion again you might find a duo of a guitar player and a violinist. The entire atmosphere is phenomenal and is welcoming to everyone regardless of religion, gender, race, looks, sexual orientation and whatnot. Many people gather on Saturday evenings here: some come in pairs, some arrive with their families, and often people just come alone. Even though you’re surrounded by people, it’s a surprisingly personal experience, especially if you decide to light a candle near the altar. It doesn’t have to be lit for a loved one who has passed away; the candle light can represent anything you want from your secret wishes to general hope to forgiveness. Whatever the reason, you are welcome in Domkerk.
This event still may seem far too religious for your taste. However, the point isn’t to turn people into Christians by joining this event. Night of Light gives everyone a chance to detach themselves from the everyday worries and have a moment of peace and quiet in our fast-moving world. It can be a highly spiritual experience for some, but it doesn’t have to be – the beauty of the event is that you bring meaning to it and that it’s personal to you. You can just come in and admire the church illuminated by wonderful candle light, but many decide to light a candle and sit down to have a moment to think. You can hear the murmuring of parents educating their children, couples whispering sweet nothings to each other, an occasional prayer here and there, all accompanied by wonderful music.
Even if you’re not religious, I would recommend you to take the time and pay a visit to Night of Light instead of a hardcore pre-party session at least once during your stay in Utrecht. Maybe it will not be a life-changing experience, nor is it likely to solve all your problems at once. It will, however, make you see Utrecht with a fresh pair of eyes and it will provide you with an experience outside your regular international student adventures abroad.