Winter solstice

The beat of time rhythms on as we percuss our way through winter. It is of little surprise that the Winter Solstice looms, our shortest day of the year. Here at Atamai we celebrate this time of reflection with a Lantern Festival.

In the week prior, there is a buzz of activity as the lanterns are prepared for the event. The children of the village (both young and old) gather to make their lanterns at one of the villager's abode. The children are given sheets of painted paper (which were painted by some dedicated adults a few nights before) to draw patterns on. The aim is to cut these patterns out and glue some translucent material (coloured tissue paper) to the inside of the lantern, so that the light from the candle shines through the pattern. The kids are given free reign on what they like their lantern to look like, these were creative works of art. The lending hand of a supervising adult gently nudges them along if they get stuck.

Here you can see the tissue paper being stuck on over the cut patterns.

The paper is then folded at predetermined seams into a lantern, and a string is added to enable it to be easily carried.

On the night of the Winter Solstice, we gathered to share a meal and to enjoy the company of our fellow villagers. Part of this celebration includes a special short performance done by various households.


Some of us sang songs or played an instrument, whilst others told stories of wonder and awe. There was even a Karate demonstration.



Our family's ensemble started with Jordan (our youngest), doing his rendition of insy-winsy-spider, complete with hand gestures. Alysha then played "Mary had a little lamb" on they keyboard, later followed by Katie accompanying me singing "Your eyes" by Gregory Norbet/Mary David Callahan. Alysha decided at the last minute to join in, which was great - she's familiar with the tune because I sing it as a bed time song to them.

The follow on from this was Scottish folk dancing led by Ali and Jeff. This was surprisingly fun piece of activity for the group to participate in, as reflected in the photos below.

Last but certainly not least, the lantern walk. We gathered at the Atamai central pond where the lanterns were lit and carried by the kids on a loop. The moon was particularly bright that night, but adding to the mystery of the evening was the low lying fog. I set my camera on long exposure so you can see the lanterns grace the landscape and mirror across the pond. Certainly added to the magical look to the evening.

Indeed a special evening to remember. It was our second to attend since we arrived at Atamai over a year ago. Here's hoping for many more to come.

An aside ...  (just to be geeky!)

Just as an experiment, I set the camera on a super long exposure and found that there was enough moon light to capture the image below. If you saw the actual scene you would see near darkness other than the diffuse moon light. However you can clearly see in this shot that the clouds are white, sky is blue and grass is green despite the complete absence of the sun. It was also a hand held shot, not a tripod! Needless to say I was rather chuffed with it :)

My next update will not be far away, I promise. Take care until then.

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