Darkness has descended on Vancouver. During December, we wake up in the dark, then trudge home from work and school in the dark. Days grow ever shorter until Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, when Vancouver gets a meagre 8 hours and 14 minutes of light (That day also corresponds to the end of the world in the Mayan Calendar, just for a little extra doom and gloom).
If all that darkness has you down, you may want to check out the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. This unique event, timed on Dec. 21 to coincide with the shortest day of the year, celebrates the return of light and warmth to our corner of the world as we move away from darkness and tilt ever closer to the sun.
On the evening of Friday, Dec. 21 – at five separate locations around the city – crowds carrying handmade paper lanterns will converge for a procession of light. After winding their way along city streets and seawalls, they’ll descend on local parks and community centres for singing, drumming, bonfires and a toast to the season.
Want to get in on the lantern action? Workshops for making your own paper lanterns are being held throughout the city during the month of December. And here’s what’s in store for the festival on Dec. 21:
- East Vancouver: Start off the evening with intimate concerts in three neighbourhood homes on Parker Street from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. After the concerts, follow the Roma-influenced Okestar Silvovica as they lead a musical street procession to the Britannia Community Centre for hot chocolate and a unique Labyrinth of Light (a maze composed of 700 beeswax candles).
- Yaletown: Three separate lantern processions led by drummers will weave their way through Yaletown and along the seawall at 6 p.m., ultimately converging on David Lam Park for a spectacular fire performance. At 7 p.m., head into the Roundhouse Community Centre for more festivities and another Labyrinth of Light.
- Granville Island: The fun kicks off at 6 p.m. with a big drum circle in Leg-in-Boot Square at Charleson Park just west of the Cambie Bridge. From there, the crowd splits in two, with one group marching east to Creekside and the other heading west to Granville Island. At the False Creek Community Centre and Performance Works, shows and festivities continue deep into the night.
- Southeast False Creek: After the 6 p.m. drum jam in Leg-in-Boot Square (above) , march east to the Creekside Community Centre in Olympic Village for more activities.
- Chinatown: Start out at the Strathcona Community Centre at 6 p.m. for a lively lantern procession through the neighbourhood, ending at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Park. There, you can stroll the park paths, illuminated by dozens of lanterns, or head into the classical garden for a dong zhi (winter solstice) festival.
Has anyone taken part in the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival before? How was it? Let us know below.
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