Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Local Tourist - Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

I have lived in Vancouver BC for twenty years now and have worked almost every weekend of those twenty years. This resulted in me missing every: parade, festival, farmers market, ethnic day celebration, cultural event, health and lifestyle expos,.... you name it, I missed it! So this year it is my mandate to try and experience as many of these as I could. For different reasons, I didn't have my camera for the first few things I attended, so will post a few pictures that I found online to illustrate what I was seeing. I will try and do a better job of chronicling the rest of my adventures as I go along. So sit back, be an armchair traveller and join me as I check out my city and what it has to offer.

First up was the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. It is held simultaneously in five different Vancouver neighborhoods on December 21st. I must admit, I have attended this festival before in two of the other locations. Once on Granville Island and the other in Yaletown. This time I went to experience it at the Dr Sun Yat-Sen gardens in Chinatown.

 The Secret Lantern Society hosts a number of city-wide lantern parades and events through-out the year and all of them are worth checking out if you have never been to one before. There is something magical about the glow and flicker of candle-light on a dark night, when all things wondrous might happen. The look on a small child's face as they gaze with awe at the fantastical creations is a joy to behold. The infectious music from the various carnival bands are a delight for the senses. The incredible creativity of everyone is inspiring. These are the perfect events to come and really feel like you are part of a community for you don`t just come to look , you are the parade, you are the show. This is your time to shine and entertain, whether by your fanciful dress, your creative lantern or your skills as a juggler, stilt walker, drummer etc.
                                                Photo: the Secret Lantern Society
The Dr Sun Yat-Sen gardens are wondrous on their own, but filled with glowing lanterns,  their light dancing in the reflecting pools, is a whole other experience in itself. A band played beautiful music in the central gazebo as people milled around on the many paths throughout the gardens. It was a sweet, gentle evening, perfect for lovers taking a stroll.

                                              A beautiful altar with prayers on white ribbons

                                                               Sun and Moon lanterns
                         A fuzzy picture from my cell phone of an ingenious stork lantern

Each of the locations has something unique to offer on this night that celebrates the return of the sun. The one at SE  False Creek had a wonderful fire show on a small hill. A representation of the sun cresting the top of the hill was lit on fire and dancers spinning fire poi`s whirled around in a frenzy of joyous celebration. At the Roundhouse in Yaletown, there were many activities going on, one of which is a magical labyrinth made of candles flickering in paper bags which created a place to take a sacred walk through the allegorical womb to be reborn with the sun.

The Lantern Festivals are a sweet, gentle way to celebrate the return of the sun when the world is at it`s darkest hour. I plan to go again next winter and will check out the celebrations on Commercial Drive this time. All- in- all , a very pleasant evening, suitable for the whole family. Two thumbs up :)

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