December 21, 2017
IGNITE THE LONGEST DARKEST NIGHT!
Red Pepper Spectacle Arts announces the 28th Annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice celebration. December 21st marks the longest night of the year. This beautiful event is a unique Toronto experience.The hand-made commercial-free festival kicks off at Augusta and Oxford at 7 pm, with on route scenarios of shadow play, rooftop masking antics, giant puppets, dancers on stilts and eclectic musical accompaniment. All are illuminated by the glow of fire breathers, spinners and Fire Finale Performance in Alexandra Park.
Toronto’s hand-made and commercial-free parade is made by Red Pepper Spectacle Arts, who are busy right now organizing and get things ready. Keep up-to-date with the latest details on the Red Pepper Spectacle Arts web page.
PRESENTED BY RED PEPPER SPECTACLE ARTS
– images from 2014 by Dahlia Katz Photography
So long darkness. Hello sunshine.
“The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year and celebrates the return to the light,” explains parade director, Gabriella Caruso. “It’s a festive parade of music, art and fire-performance. It builds to a glorious fire finale, during which a central fire sculpture is set ablaze.”
The parade is the city’s only non-profit, commercial-free, hand-made festival. It’s the gift of Red Pepper Spectacle Arts and it’s the best community, family-friendly event I’ve ever been to. It’s the only event I know of where city officials allow fire on such a big scale.
Twenty-five years ago, I was at the first Kensington Market Winter Solstice event. It was cold. I could hear the snow crunch under my feet. The shops were closed. The streets were dark. There was hardly anyone around except for the actors and musicians performing in the best tradition of popular theatre. That’s when I first saw the enchanting horse puppet; it was in a mummers skit. It danced to the sound of bells, tambourines, and horn players. Actors cried out, doing their best to banish the night and call the sun. Our mitten-clad hands offered muffled applause.
Today, Gabriella Caruso, director of Red Pepper Spectacle Arts, the company’s staff, Kensington Market, hundreds of volunteers and artists continue to make merry and ‘ignite the darkest night’. Everyone pitches in.
The event was created by Kensington resident Ida Carnevale who, together with a few friends, wanted to celebrate the winter solstice in the tradition of outdoor festivals. Years ago, she moved back to Italy and Red Pepper Spectacle Arts co-founders Gabriella Caruso and Andy Moro took it under their wing. They introduced the midwinter solstice traditions of Toronto’s multicultural communities and the beautiful and haunting winter images and stories of Canada’s Native cultures. Under their guidance the festival has grown into a community love-fest of over 10,000 revellers.
Giant puppets, stilt walkers, dancers, actors, musicians, and singers accompany revellers through the narrow streets of Kensington Market while warm glowing hand-made lanterns light the way. My favourite part of the parade is the happy revellers and the lanterns. I’ll be looking for those rascally racoon puppet characters, too, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for that wonderful horse puppet.
Click on any photo to enlarge.
At Alexandra Park, the parade climaxes with the burning of a giant hand-made sculpture. It’s different every year. It takes weeks to make it and less than half-an-hour to burn. “This year’s centrepiece is a brilliant phoenix with an eighteen-foot wing-span,” says Gabriella. “The bird represents a re-birth, a rising out of the ashes and a new start for the new year.”
“We are so excited,” says Gabriella, “to welcome the Toronto community to the 25th anniversary of the parade. There are lanterns available so that anyone and everyone can join in, and we look forward to seeing you there!”
The parade is free but for a small fee you can buy your very own hand-made lantern or make one yourself at the workshop. It begins at 7 pm on December 21 on the corner of Oxford and Augusta and winds through the streets of the market, ending with the bonfire at Alexandra Park.
Click here to get more information on Red Pepper Spectacle Arts and to donate to the event. You will be rewarded with a unique gift.
– Elizabeth Cinello
Photos by Solomon King and Elizabeth Cinello, video courtesy Elizabeth Cinello
The last performance the parade passes before the bonfire is the Befanas, Italian hags who screech their entreaties of love to the sun. Here is one Befana’s account, The Joy of Hags Singing.
We will be there–thanks for the heads up.
Patricia Good, Toronto
Great post. terrific pictures. I’ll be there too.
Rob Cambell, Toronto
It was a wonderful event. Everyone loves a parade. Watch video of Kensington Winter Solstice 2014 at: https://vimeo.com/115314149