Contemplating Light

As the temperatures starts to drop, I’ve been thinking about our annual pilgrimage to Kensington Market Festival of Light.


It is one of my favourite things to do. The true start of the season for me. A group of like-minded people marching together through the emptied-out market by the closed darkened stores down the streets devoid of cars, the only people there carrying lanterns or noisemakers. Watching the fire eaters and costumed volunteers make the streets feel like our own personal Cirque du Soliel. Feeling our hearts shift to meet the beat of the drum bangs. Stopping to listen to the bicycle choir outside the synagogue. Watching the giant shadow puppets on Kensington rooftops act out the rebirth of the sun. Banging our drums, holding our lanterns high and chasing away the longest night of the year.

Okay, that’s how I remember it. But the stores haven’t been dark for years. The streets are crammed with cars. The number of spectators (not participants) has grown wildly and squish the parade down to a tiny little stream down the middle of the streets. The feeling of camaraderie, solace and power is gone with the millions of little clicks from the cameras and cell phones in everyone’s hands. Even the ultimate bonfire, never my favourite part, has been moved to a schoolyard because of the overcrowding and danger that introduces.

From something I felt showed pure community in the middle of Toronto, it has turned into something I would warn parents against bringing their kids to. God forbid they get lost in THIS crowd.

I won’t be attending this year. At least not in Kensington Market.

So on December 21st if you see a lonesome soul walking through Allan Gardens holding a lantern and banging a drum, you know who it’ll be.

At the end of the procession a sculpture, this year a winged heart, is set aflame to welcome back the light. The flame dancers pass the flame to the firebreathers who ignite the heart. Note: the 3 camera visible in shot – I wonder if any of them are TPMG folks?
Kensington Market Festival of Light 2005

Alexa Clark

Alexa is a digital marketer and author with over 20 years in digital & interactive communications in the food and tech industries. Alexa's CheapEats Restaurant Guides, for both Toronto & Ottawa, were Canadian best sellers. She is a recognized authority on social media and has been named one of Canada's 20 Leading Women in Social Media.

2 thoughts on “Contemplating Light

  • November 15, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I remember the very first parade back in… ’87? ’88? It was tiny, lasted all of 5 minutes.
    I, too, am disheartened with the Market parade. People who drag out terrified dogs or kids, people who care more about getting photos than of the parade itself. They kind of ruin what is supposed to be a solemn, mystical, magical, beautiful event.
    Would love to make plans with you to do something… I’ve always thought the Music Garden would be an amazing place to celebrate the winter solstice. Lanterns reflecting off the water, and (hopefully) the snow, all surrounding the branches of plants and trees waiting for the spring to being them back to life.

  • December 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Sheryl, that sounds lovely but I’m very late in replying to your great suggestion,
    With my mother arriving that evening I think I’ll just take my drum and candle to Allen Gardens (less than a block from home) walk around a bit and head home. However, we should discuss next year.


What do you think?