Winter Solstice Lantern Festival – December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival at Vancouver's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Photo: Secret Lantern Society

Among the many holiday celebrations happening in Vancouver this December, there is one event that stands out from the rest: the 18th annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival on December 21, 2011.

Rooted in the primal celebration of nature’s rhythms, rather than any specific religion, the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival commemorates the longest night of the year—the winter solstice—and honours the return of the sun with lantern processions, drumming, music, and fire.

Organized by the Secret Lantern Society, this free festival takes place on the same day—December 21—in five different Vancouver neighbourhoods: Commercial Drive, Yaletown, Granville Island, S.E. False Creek, and Chinatown.

Here’s a rundown of the free events at each of the Vancouver neighbourhoods participating in the 2011 Winter Solstice Lantern Festival:

Commercial Drive – There are two main parts to the Vancouver East festival: Solstice House Concerts & Lantern Procession from 6pm – 7pm, which begin at three private homes (details here) and end with a Lantern Procession to the Britannia Community Centre (1661 Napier St.), and celebrations at the Britannia Community Centre, which run from 6pm – 11pm.  Events at Britannia include live music, courtyard dancing to welcome the Lantern Procession at 7:15pm, and the fantastic Labyrinth of Light made of 700 pure beeswax candles.

Labyrinth of Light. Photo: Secret Lantern Society

Yaletown – Lantern Processions begin at 6pm at three different locations along the seawall—Cooper’s Park, Emery Barnes Park, and the Vancouver Aquatic Centre—and converge on David Lam Park, where the processions are welcomed by a spectacular fire performance from Fire Tribe. Celebrations continue indoors at the Roundhouse Community Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews), where there will be live world fusion music, live dance performances, kids’ activities, and lantern displays.

Granville Island –  The Lantern Procession begins at 6pm at Leg-in-Boot Square, where the procession divides into two groups, one headed for Creekside (see below) and one headed for Granville Island’s Ron Basford Park, where they will be greeted by the traditional torch-lit Song Of Welcome by The Vancouver Morris Men. Celebrations continue at the False Creek Community Centre (1318 Cartwright St.) from 7pm – 9:30pm, with live music and visual storytelling, and at Performance Works (1218 Cartwright St.) from 7:30pm – 9:30pm, with a community dance and drum circle.

S.E. False Creek – After the Lantern Procession at 6pm from Leg-in-Boot Square—which culminates with a fire performance along the seaside—festivities move to the Creekside Community Centre (1 Athletes Way), where there will be live music, shadow puppets, and another Labyrinth of Light.

Chinatown – The Lantern Procession begins at 6pm at the Strathcona Community Centre and winds its way through Chinatown to the landmark Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, where there will be live music, lantern displays, and a stunning collection of antique lanterns.

Even though all of the Vancouver Winter Solstice Lantern Festival events are free, donations are requested to help keep this wonderful tradition alive.

The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival takes place on December 21, 2011.

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