The Why of the Festival: Grace, Peace and Joy in the Longest Nights of the YearRead Now
On Saturday when the Elders of the Squamish Nation gathered, in regalia, in the Festival's Dundarave Nativity Pavilion a brooding and prayerful quiet fell over the Beach. The sun was as high as it can get at this time of year, low on the horizon and heading faster than any of us would like it to set behind the jagged ridges of Vancouver Island. The Elders' purpose, and the sincerity of the way they expressed it took your breath away, was to honour the nobility and goodness of the spirit in everyone gathered at the Festival, pressing in all around them in the Pavilion. They placed our Master Carver Bill Seminoff at the heart of the site, asking him to stand beside Melchior, the second king of the Dundarave Nativity, honouring the 700 hour labour of love Bill had poured into this carving to make sure it would be ready for this Christmas. Lead by Wes Nahanee, they raised their hands above their heads in the highest form of greeting and then they lifted their voices in song, signing in the first language heard on this beach thousands of years ago.
We did not know at the time that all of them were carrying with them the pain of a terrible act of violence that took place the night before in their neighbourhood. There was only a powerful dignity in their faces, a deep joy welling up as they struck the drums and sang those ancient words. This was a moment of grace borne out in music, and when they finished their first song of blessing the crowd gathered around them, and most of us had not heard anything like this before, fell into something like a silent awe until Wes Nahanee said "It's alright everyone, you can make noise if you want to". And then the ovation came, rolling like a peal of thunder from everyone gathered round.
At the end, after the Elders had made their procession from the Dundarave Nativity Pavilion to the Festival Longhouse, they said this was as it should be, that all of us in all of our diversity -- from the first peoples to walk on this Beach to the people from every corner of the planet who now join them here, should enjoy the freedom of living in peace and joy of this afternoon every moment of the year.
There was a different joy, but the same spirit, when Cheko Tohomaso took centre stage at the Festival Longhouse with his VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir. He drew it out of us, setting spirituals and standard carols to a rollicking Motown vibe. You could not keep silent, or keep your feet still in the presence of a choir and a choir director who named the importance of our moment with soul.
And so the Festival continues to its World Christmas, doubly blessed.
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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.