This is one of those moments when words come close to failing. To be perfectly candid about it, looking out our windows this afternoon at the torrents of rain gave us pause. With the light up of the Festival's biggest night of the season hours away, we found ourselves up against the hard reality of a weather system that showed nothing remotely resembling a Christmas spirit. How do you hold a bonfire party in a sub tropical, temperate rainforest monsoon? There was nothing for it but to stick to the plan. Our tents and sound equipment arrived on time, faithfully marshaled by the District of West Vancouver's unflappable Crystal Coté. Our stalwart friends Sofia and Brad, Paul and Gwendolyn, Squamish elder Wendy Charbonneau and a host of others including the Tiddley Cove Morris Dancers, brought the heat of moral courage to us. I realized all would be well when our torchman from the Parks department, with a can of gasoline at hand, set light to the twenty metre bonfire he had laid with pyrotechnical majesty on Friday. It was a work of sculpture in beach logs, sparks and flame. There was a deep Christmas magic at work, in the Morris dancers and the Hot Mammas, in the hundreds of people who came despite the tempest -- the people who said they would not miss this event for the world. And this was enough, in the end, to make the rain stop. It was this leap of faith at Christmas that did what the satellite imaging said was impossible: bring a dry hour or two to Dundarave Beach against a Pineapple Express. We ended the bonfire night with (another) $25,000 raised to make sure the people who are homeless in our community have what they need to take pride of place in the centre of our community. We ended the night, the longest night of the year, leaving no one in the cold. There's deep Christmas magic in all of this, proof that there's a light in the world the darkness cannot overcome.
We live in a supernaturally beautiful corner of the world, but the night is starting to weigh heavily on us as we tip to our furthest point away from the Sun. The long evenings of summer may be a distant memory, and it can take some effort to believe our days will not always be as dark as they are now. Sunday December 20th is the longest night of the year, and there's no better way to pass it than together on Dundarave Beach in a forest of shining trees and in the blazing glow of a 20 metre yuletide bonfire. This will be the Festival's biggest fundraising night of the Christmas season, and it looks like we're well on our way to raising $25,000 again for the North Shore Shelter. Every penny of this money makes sure that the people who feel the bite of winter the most, sleeping in our ravines, forests, or beaches can claim their rightful place in the heart of our community. Keep the night with us, and together we will see brighter days.
Master Carver Bill Seminoff and Elder Wendy Charbonneau
We might never know who carved this nativity setting of old growth red cedar, but the devotion and love the carver poured into these works remains vibrant and alive today. Its in the patina of the wood, masterfully brought back by our eminent friend Bill Seminoff. This carver speaks volumes about the First Christmas in the unconventional composition of the figures. The Shepherd, the King, the Angel and an ever watchful Joseph have faces representing all races. The Infant Jesus is not in a manger, lying like an object removed from the real world of human life. He's on the lap of his Mother, seated in her love for him and reaching out to everyone who approaches. All of these figures stand without a roof over their heads, and witness to the fact that the world can change forever and for good even in a condition of homelessness.
Today we unveiled the Dundarave Nativity, and for the first time saw these carvings blessed by a paddle song. Elder Wendy Charbonneau, whose many times great grandfather Chief Capilano welcomed Captain Cook to the waters off Dundarave Beach, sang the paddle song of her grandmother, a friend of Emily Carr. There was a gentle grace to this moment, as determined and subtle as the return of spring itself. Under a warm and speckless sky, after the blessing, Gleneagles and Irwin Park students echoed her call to peace and deep Christmas joy as they sang to hundreds of their friends, family and beautiful strangers.
Be sure to visit the Dundarave Nativity this season. If you'd like to share its spirit with people on your holiday list, contact us about the Festival's Christmas card featuring the Dundarave Nativity -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- or purchase them here.
The Dundarave Festival Society
We are a circle of friends working in the Dundarave Festival of Lights Society to bring to life the promise of Christmas in our community, a season of life, passion and purpose that leaves no one in the cold. This is community-driven social change, in the true spirit of Christmas and the best spirit of our community.