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