Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Longest Night

Winter solstice brings with it many things.

The joy in knowing the sun will start rising before 8.20am and that's the last time we have to see sunset before 5.00pm. All those with Seasonal Affective Disorder, please cheer (if you're up to it.)

The feeling we're on the big down hill slope to summer, even if the cruel reality in Dunedin is we don't see the worst weather until after the shortest day. To make it's point, we're forecast for snow this week.

The realisation we're half way through the year, and the re-evaluation of goals and time-frames. (Armed with a wine and a mild sense of panic.)

And traditions, lots of traditions.

In our family I'm big on making traditions for the kids. Here in New Zealand we don't seem to find cause to celebrate or mark events, other than the usual Easter and Christmas, which is a shame. I think we need to mark dates, whether lunar, environmental or cultural. To me it gives people, and particularly children a sense of place and time and season, a sense of the rhythm of life. So we celebrate whenever we can.

The shortest day brings with it the ceremonial planting of Garlic, to be harvested on the longest day. And of course, we have to have a special Mid-Winter Dinner, which will be tonight. We couldn't have it last night because, along with half of Dunedin, and their kids, we were cocooned in jackets and warm clothes and out at the Midwinter Carnival.

Dunedin knows how to celebrate.

Moray Place through to the Octagon was closed off to traffic and the centre of the city turned into one large festival playground, with live music, food stalls, and the unexpected sight of braziers with open fires in the middle of the main street of town.

Then the Lantern Parade began, the part we'd all been waiting for. Over 300 paper lanterns had been made including giant lanterns shaped like New Zealand birds, and seven giant stars to represent the seven sisters of the Pleiads in recognition of Matariki, the Maori New Year. These were paraded around The Octagon with great ceremony to the beat of the percussionists and a group of Medieval Chanters. There were stilt walkers, ethereal dancers, giant puppets and hundreds of excited children carrying their own glowing lantern creations.

The evening was topped off with the burst and boom of fireworks and the sky ablaze with colour and light.

It was magical, for children young and old.

So we have celebrated the shortest day, marked the winter solstice, celebrated Matariki. The children have a sense of this time, its significance and the season.

We all look forward to light, and sometime soon, warmth.


The Paradoxical Cat said...

Awww - your photos are so beautiful. I only had my cell phone with me and my snaps are all dark and blurry, but the memories are vivid.

Dunedin is a great place to learn to appreciate the seasons. And we're so faithful with our rituals.

As for the cold - I think that's one reason it's such a good city for writers. It's very easy to stay indoors and work!

Mary McCallum said...

Oh! I want one of those in Wellington! The lanterns are lovely.

Vanda Symon said...

I have to give credit for the pretty photos to my hubby. If I tried to take them you'd have blurry things or blotchy dark unrecognisable shapes.

The lanterns were a work of art and made out of toi toi sticks and old sewing pattern paper.

The whole event was fantastic.