The lantern parade in Ann Sophie Peterson’s turn of the century painting speaks of a serene harmony in light and darkness. Her home was Denmark. What a sense of place the gift of this painting is to us in late 2015!
People are mingled on the streetscape in peaceful ways, celebrating a special quality of light through the craft and ingenuity of their lanterns, often shaped at the kitchen table. Children of all ages mingle with the adults in a common procession and purpose. And the lanterns hover in the night. If you have parents or grandparents from Europe, they may have told you of such events, sometimes associated with St Martin’s Day, in November.
Music speaks a similar language of light in darkness. This year, a singing group of ten people—friends, friends of friends, and “just people from all around”, according to Kari Kokko, the director of the choir—will gather at the Wilhelm Spur Line to help lead neighbours, friends, and folks of all ages to welcome in the dark in this season. Solstice songs, seasonal Christmas material, a beautiful Gregorian chant, and even a Gordon Lightfoot tune are planned for the special leisurely walk along the trail.
I am one of those singers, and have found the magic of walking with others while singing in the fresh air near Kari’s house a unique experience. “When harmonies fully come together… when it all just gels.. That’s a wonderful thing, “comments Kari, reflecting on her favourite experience in leading the group.
I agree. I look forward to faces old and new, as we explore together the sections of the trail that have recently been opened up in our community. Thanks to Sarah, Julian, Lane, Jana, Andrea and their many neighbours for leading the way!
~ Christa Van Daele
We hope you can join us at this year’s lantern walk. Meet us on the Spur Line trail with your lantern in hand. Event details here.
Lanterns are still popping up in unexpected places throughout our house. Our 1.5 year old and 4 year old pick them up to do their rounds of the kitchen and livingroom, playing “lantern walk”.
Before we put those lanterns away for the year, I’d like to say thanks:
To the 250 or so people from across KW and beyond who came out to the 2014 lantern walk. Strangers talked to each other, neighbours met, friends walked together.
To KW Hydro, the City of Kitchener and especially Lane Burman from the Mount Hope Breithaupt Park Neighbourhood Association for turning the streetlights off for the walk. There was magic in the darkness.
To the wonderful solstice choir (Kari, Ellen, Megan-Fay, Laura, Martha, Angie, Beth, Darrell, and Joel) and especially to Kari Kokko for bringing the choir together.
To Crystal Bradford, Liam Kijewski and Sarah Granskou and all of the lantern-making artists whose beautiful lanterns lit up the night. And to Extend-a-family for their enthusiastic support of the walk, including hosting the lantern making workshop.
To the lantern walk volunteers: Alyssa and Wellesley Cider (without whom there would have been no hot apple cider!), Andrea, Dan, Jana, Jessica, Julian, Lane, Luiza and all those who dropped off cookies, circulated posters and shared facebook invitations.
And for poetry, fire, darkness and light. See you on December 21 2015!
Special thanks to Brian L. for the photos.
Last year as we prepared for the lantern walk, a friend came across this essay about light and darkness by local writer Leslie Morgenson. It speaks to the heart of why we do this. Over the past two Saturdays we posted excerpts one and two. Here’s the last of three:
In recent years a movement called ‘Starlight Reserves’ has claimed that we have “A right to starlight”. The aim is to uphold the integrity of the night sky by maintaining areas unpolluted with light, where natural night sky conditions are kept intact. The Starlight Reserves state that an unpolluted night sky should be considered, “an inalienable right of humankind equivalent to all other environmental, social, and cultural rights.” The town of Tekapo, New Zealand is presently waiting UNESCO’s approval on becoming the first Starlight Reserve. Other locations around the world that have expansive space to view the night sky away from light pollution are also proposing to become future sites of a ‘night park’.
I have become smitten with the night sky. And I find courage in Vincent Van Gogh’s reverence for the nocturnal, painting ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone’ from his sanatorium window at a time of great personal crisis; and later continuing with a series entitled “Study in the Night”. I am heartened by the stories of my father, moving through the years of blackouts with the rest of Europe’s citizenry during WWII. And then after the war, sitting among strangers under a new moon, waiting to cross from East to West Germany, hiding at the edge of a forest, the night sky a constant companion on an unfamiliar journey.
The lantern walk crew are also smitten with the night sky. Join us tomorrow night, lantern in hand, as we walk with the darkness and the light.
* With thanks to Leslie for being willing to share this excerpt. The entire essay, originally printed in the Good Work News from The Working Centre, is available here.
Down a dark, cool, and snowless path we slowly stroll. No lanterns for our practice tonight – only a mist sparkling in the occasional street light.
Our voices interwine in a three-part round as we follow a curve on the walkway. “Dona nobis pacem,” we sing. Only three words. “Dona nobis pacem” – grant us peace. Over and over the words circle around us.
It’s the kind of song, the kind of evening, the sort of movement that lends itself to contemplation of blessings and deep wishes for peace to spread as easily as one little flame can spread light from candlewick to candlewick, from lantern to lantern.
We move into another piece, a yearning spiritual. “Bright morning star arising…oh day is a-breaking in my soul.”
“Let it ring,” exhorts one of our members. “Don’t hold back.”
The idea that beyond the fuzzy glow of our city’s lights there’s the whole big black sky to set a-shimmer with our voices – well, it’s beyond my one little voice, or even that of our nine-voice choir to complete the job – but the idea of singing as deeply as we can into that darkness is thrilling. It’s something to set a singing flame aglow, and listen for the sound of it spreading…
The Solstice Choir has been practicing since November, and we have beautiful songs to share at the lantern walk on Sunday December 21. Sing with us by learning the melody for Dona Nobis Pacem so you can join in the round. Practice with this video.
We’ll be switching the order of the second and third verse, but the great thing is the words are never out of order!
We’ll also sing:
In Dulce Jubilo
Lo, How a Rose
In the Bleak Midwinter
Come and Find the Quiet Centre
And in case you missed it, one of the lantern walk organizers posted links to two short German lantern songs that are simple for anyone, child or adult, to sing. Learn them and join in!
We were excited when Lantern Walk organizer Jana Phillip offered to translate the songs she remembers from her childhood lantern walks in Germany.
I was already curious about the cultural traditions associated with the lantern walk, and decided to look into it.
On November 11, in France, Germany, Scandinavia and eastern Europe, an autumnal festival occurs to honour St. Martin de Tours, a monk from France that advocated against poverty, alcoholism and unjust imprisonment. He is celebrated for his kind soul and compassionate nature. As the story goes, St. Martin, who was once a Roman soldier, saw a homeless man lying on the cold ground and tore his cloak in half to give to him for warmth. He also left his lantern, which is why children in Germany have a procession on St. Martin’s Day where they walk with lanterns that they have made in school, often accompanied by a man dressed as St. Martin on horseback. The destination is usually the town square where they are served pretzels and bonfires are lit.
Jana has fond memories of this event from her childhood:
“I attended an outdoor preschool in Germany. Around St. Martin’s day, November 11th of every year, the children of my preschool would gather in the forest clutching their home made lanterns with which we lit up the crisp, dark, winter night. As we marched along the path in the forest, we were guided by tea lights that marked our way. Our lanterns illuminated the empty branches above us and I swear the fairies came out to dance to our lantern songs:
Sonne, Mond, und Sterne!
Brenne auf mein Licht,
brenne auf mein Licht,
aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht.
Sun, Moon and Stars!
Burn, my light,
burn, my light,
but not my dear lantern.
Lantern walks are steeped in traditions all over the world. Join us on December 21 for our lantern walk on Hett Ave. where we continue our new neigbourhood tradition of honouring the winter, solstice and light. And check out Jana’s recording of two lantern songs and learn them for the walk.
– Jessica Burman
Last year as we prepared for the lantern walk, a friend came across this essay about light and darkness by local writer Leslie Morgenson. It speaks to the heart of some of the reasons we do this walk. Last Saturday we posted the first in a three-part series. Here’s the second.
The act of brightening our dark streets with glaring light to the point where the night sky is no longer available for our viewing appears to be a decision lacking in clarity. A report from the RASC in 2008, entitled ‘Guidelines for Outdoor Lighting in Dark Sky Preserves’ reports that excessive outdoor lighting has a profound impact on the health and behavior of humans. Our circadian rhythms are negatively affected by constant light. Our sleep patterns, mood, physical strength and blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate are all synchronized by the day-night cycle. The release of melatonin which regulates other hormones and repairs the damage we do to our bodies daily, is dependent on night. When we don’t experience a dark night our bodies suffer and we have trouble fending off disease.
The most common reason attributed to night time lighting is to reduce crime. However the RASC reports that studies have disproven this assertion, stating there is no clear evidence that outdoor lighting reduces crime. In fact most property crimes occur in the day and violent crime typically occurs between people who know each other.
Brightening our night skies has made us into people who are unfamiliar with the dark night and hence we fear the dark. And the more we fear the dark, the more lights we think we need, when all we really need is to become enlightened about the cultural wasteland we have created of our night. Darkness is natural and necessary yet it has become an unknown and unfamiliar place for us. “The more light we’re accustomed to, the more we feel the need for security,” says Jane Brox. “For many of us now, abundant artificial light, not darkness, feels natural after the sun goes down.” And yet even as we ponder the need for turning back to the dark night of yore, it is a quest held only by western nations, since many in the world still live without adequate electricity, and in fact are not at all tied to the electric grid.
There is little doubt that as our fear of the dark unfamiliar night grows, so too grows the fear of our own personal darkness. Dark Nights of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes lovingly about Hekate, the night goddess who is at home in “dark alleys, corners and alcoves”. In your darkness, he says, “You may discover a part of you that is essential to your being.” For we all possess that darkness, it’s always present. Acknowledging that part of ourselves may be our greatest insight. Our inner darkness may hold gems that we repress or consciously suppress out of fear cutting ourselves off from this important piece of self. Hekate sanctions this mysterious dark inner world in each of us and in doing so, liberates us.
With thanks to Leslie for being willing to share it. The entire essay, originally printed in the Good Work News from The Working Centre, is available here.
Plastic bags, bubble wrap, cardboard, chicken wire, wool roving, soap and water. Two evenings ago, about forty kids and adults transformed these materials into glowing lanterns. For three hours the Extend-a-Family WALES building buzzed with creativity. Thanks to all who came and helped out. Sarah Granskou walked us through the process of felting a lantern cover.
Crystal and Liam brought their experience from building costumes for the Procession of the Species walk each year to the construction of collaborative 3-D lanterns. Look for an octopus, a bird and a giant lantern at the walk!
And we put the glue guns to work, of course. Kids and adults used bits and pieces to decorate their own lantern jars.
Jana handed out the lyrics of two lantern songs she’s recorded so we can all learn them for the lantern walk. We’re very grateful for the support of Extend-a-Family, Mount Hope Breithaupt Park Neighbourhood Association and Cocoon Apothecary and the artists for this workshop.
Last year as we prepared for the lantern walk, a friend came across this essay about light and darkness by local writer Leslie Morgenson. It speaks to the heart of some of the reasons we do this. Over the next three Saturdays I’ll post excerpts.
Thanks to Leslie for being willing to share it. The entire essay, originally printed in the Good Work News from The Working Centre, is available here.
The early city founders of Waterloo, living as they were in the late 19th century, a time before modern electricity as we know it, proceeded to enact a measure known as “the moonlight schedule”. Gas lit street lamps were turned off during a full moon to make use of its reflected light to illuminate the city streets. At that time there would have been nothing unusual about this action. Until the 20th century, people everywhere lived in tune with the natural world. Indeed, according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), “All civilizations through recorded history have constellations woven into their culture.” Did those early founders have any inkling when they drafted their ‘moonlight schedule’ that they were on the cusp of change that would mark them as the last generation for whom the darkness of the night landscape was as familiar as the day?
These people and their ancestors understood night as a time of respite when work ended and reflection began. Night offered privacy, and a time to be refreshed. In her book, Brilliant, Jane Brox recounts the beginnings of “insistent light” when citizens worldwide were not altogether happy with unnatural light flooding their streets. “Lantern Smashing” became a strategy used by citizens of Paris, France as an act of defiance toward their government.
But lighting arrived and though we were robbed of the night sky, the incandescent light bulb created a soft atmosphere making it pleasant for people to walk at night, casting an attractive broad beam down onto the streets. Today because of sodium vapour lighting with a stark glare shining upward, current generations are the first for whom many have not seen a star filled sky and may never see the Milky Way.
The closest we in the city came to experiencing the true night sky was August 14, 2003 during the Northeast Blackout, a massive power outage that affected 55 million people. There were bright spots, however, in what may have been viewed as a catastrophe. Neighbours emptied their fridges and freezer of food that would spoil and ate together in backyard gardens. Then we all ventured out. It was midnight and the streets were alive with giddy walkers, stopping to greet, barely able to see each other in the dark night, we had to rely on our voices to carry our good intentions. And from the city centre the Milky Way, for once, was clearly visible. It was a dark night of rare magic.
In 2014 Lantern Walk news, it looks quite positive that we’ll arrange with KW Hydro to turn off the neighbourhood streetlights for our walk. By chance, it’s a new moon on December 21. Though it will be the longest night of the year, with luck the Milky Way will join us on our way.