Brightest Day, Blackest Night (Festival of Lights, Candy Cane Lane)

Ah winter has finally arrived, and it looks like it won’t be leaving any time soon! I was nervous for a bit there. Thought we were going to witness another Super El Nino equivalent to the one we had back in 1997. That year we didn’t know what to do, when the snow simply would not stick around until New Years.

But that famous Edmonton snow is here now folks! Rest easy.

The snow is everywhere, and with it the cold of winter combined with the limited daylight make for an interesting combination. One which can have depressing effects if you don’t know how to combat it.

The time of year when both heat and light is precious.It’s somewhat regrettable how we yearn for cold in the summer and heat in the winter, when we should instead be celebrating the possibilities of the current season.

Which is why we could benefit from a lesson from Rome.

The Romans had no issue with this concept of seasons and prepared for the winter solstice with vigour. Saturnalia was an ancient Roman holiday held in service of the Roman god Saturn. It was a period of merrymaking and is the unofficial predecessor of the Christmas holiday (read: feasts, rest from work, servants are served, dinner clothes, gift-giving, and toy gifts for children). If you aren’t familiar with Roman mythology, Saturn was a god that represented agriculture and ruled the world for a time. A time which the Romans called the Golden age, when the earth was filled with food and labour was non-existent.

The Augustan poet Vergil had this to say of Saturn,

He gathered together the unruly race [of fauns and nymphs ] scattered over mountain heights, and gave them laws … . Under his reign were the golden ages men tell of: in such perfect peace he ruled the nations.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information about the holiday Saturnalia which comes from one particular source. The best known work that provides the most detail on the event was written by Macrobius. In it, he refers to Saturnalia as a festival of light which leads up to the winter solstice. Candles are used everywhere to represent truth and knowledge and merriment is the order of the day.

I thought that the acknowledgement of Saturn’s dominion and care-taking of other species was particularly interesting, especially in light of (future bad pun) the timely event I’m going to share with you today dear readers.

You see, and this isn’t a new theory, there are many accomplished philosophers and intellectuals out there that believe humans take their moral cues from whatever appears to be higher in power and influence than themselves, whether it be law, principles, or spiritual. Thus, even though Saturn and Saturnalia have disappeared from the forefront of mythology and belief for several centuries, the themes present still exist to this day.

Which is why I think the Festival of Lights put on by the Edmonton Valley Zoo is a fascinating event that mirrors those ideas of bounty, dominion, care taking, truth, and knowledge just ahead of the Christmas season and in time with Saturnalia.

Okay maybe not really, but I had you going there for a while didn’t I?

Truthfully, the Festival of Lights is a staple of the Edmonton holiday season, much like Candy Cane Lane, the Citadel’s Christmas Carol, and the Festival of Trees. And no matter what your belief system, I think we can all agree that whatever the roots or reasons of these types of traditions, what is most important about this time of year is thinking of others and your place in the world.

This year the Festival of Lights took place between December 4-13 between the hours of 5-9 PM.

Wait, hold up timotheories, are you saying that this event already came and went? Why yes, dear readers, I am. But I wouldn’t ever share something timely with you that was no longer relevant. That’s just silly.

No, fortunately for you, I heard from How To Douglas, that there is a special one shot of the Festival of Lights this Sunday, December 20th from 5-9 PM. So why don’t you come check it out? The Edmonton Valley Zoo can be found at 13315 Buena Vista Road, and you will definitely enjoy all of the art installations, the lights, and the night sky. Sometimes they feature a skating rink and snack stand.

And if you are disappointed by that fare, you should also check out Candy Cane Lane, which is located at 148 Street between 100 Avenue to 92 Avenue Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

These types of events only come around once a year, and showcase some incredibly creativity on the part of the home owners and patrons that organize them. If you haven’t been before, check them both out. And if you have, and it’s been a little while, please go and support your local community!

That’s all I’ve got this week folks! 7 more sleeps until Christmas, and one more week until I take a bit of a hiatus. So please check out next week’s articles or spend some time getting caught up on posts you’ve missed.



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