Winter Solstice 2013

Festival of Lights Celebrant

Every year on the evening of Dec. 21, people gather in Toronto’s Kensington Market to celebrate Winter Solstice with a festival of fire and lights. I have attended several times. This year I went with my partner and two daughters. It was a mild and rainy night, so the crowd appeared a little thin, but the weather did not dampen anyone’s spirits.

 Festival of Lights Totems

Drummers and giant totem puppets impart a Native Canadian flavour to the proceedings, but they are not by any means the only forms of music, ritual and spirituality present. Activities commence with droning instruments, drumming circles, fire blowers and dancers putting on a show in the heart of the market. Then a parade proceeds slowly past various performance art presentations around the village. Shadow puppets are a common sight. So are decorative lanterns which celebrants make at home and bring to join in the festivities.

Festival of Lights Shadow Puppets

The event is co-ordinated by Red Pepper Spectacle Arts, a not-for-profit community organization based in Kensington Market.

For me participation has less to do with religious observance than a practical ritual. Winter solstice ends what tends to be the most difficult time of year for me, and this autumn was a particularly heavy one. Henceforth the days will grow longer and my spirit turns upon a different leg of the journey. January is a usually good time for new goals and undertakings.

The winter solstice provides an excellent venue to restore a sense of vigor and connection with a community larger than one’s self.

Festival of Lights Fire Blower

3 thoughts on “Winter Solstice 2013

  1. Very cool! We have some similar celebrations here in Minneapolis, put on by In The Heart of the Beast puppet theatre (May Day), and by Barebones (The Halloween Show) at the other end of the solar year. The second photo is close to what the puppet theatre produces at May Day for the last 39 years, and there’s a huge fire-dancer group that participates at Barebones’ Halloween Show. Comparatively, Solstice events (summer or winter) are more subdued and harder to find. Something like this would be absolutely welcome, to me at least. There’s a huge Mexican community hereabouts and they put on a La Posada pageant which is pleasant but doesn’t have much significance for me.

    Interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Magical,what a wonderful event,and beautiful shots,thanks Van for posting them.

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