Friday, December 7, 2012

With the Luster of Mid-day

My favorite thing about being on regular time/winter time is the early darkness. Especially as a child, when my bedtime was officially early (as opposed to helplessly early, like it is now), I loved being awake when it was dark outside. I've never been a natural night owl, so winter time gives me the chance to experience night and still find my bed before I turn into a pumpkin. Same for the boys.

When you think about it, there are a fair number of official nighttime festivities in the late fall and winter. Like Trick or Treating! Our kids headed out early in the evening this year - I believe it was still light outside. But you could see their excitement and energy build as it got darker. I remember waiting to Trick or Treat until dark when I was a child. It was part of the fun!

For our family, the next traditional evening event is the Saint Martin's Lantern Parade around mid-November. This is an old northern European tradition. The children walk through the streets of the villages, carrying lanterns and singing songs. In older versions of the tradition, children were given sweets by the townspeople as they sang at their doors. (Perhaps a percursor to Trick or Treating?) The legend is that Saint Martin was a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity and later became a monk. His conversion was marked by the fact that he gave half his cloak to a freezing beggar in a snowstorm, only to later discover that the beggar was Christ. I have no idea what the Saint Martin legend has to do with walking around carrying lanterns, but none of the Germans seem to make the connection either. It's not like we're walking around coatless. Or maybe my lack of connection means my German language abilities are still that bad after 5 years of Lanternenumzug. (They may be.) Nonetheless, every year we gather with about 300 other people walk through Denver neighborhood streets, carrying our lanterns, singing (pretty badly), and taking terrible nighttime photos that never really capture the coolness of the event. It's a markedly unreligious event considering it's the St. Martin's Lantern Parade.

This year, we visited a Winterfest that took place (gasp!) before Thanksgiving. In past years, I've protested going on a matter of principle. It's a newer event in our Denver neighborhood and, from what I hear, every year it gets a little bit bigger and a little bit more like a Christkindlmarkt in Germany. I'm hopeful that some year in the near future we'll be drinking mulled wine with the wurst we're buying from the vendor below. I love this upcoming photo (now removed). It's sort of like Normal Rockwell meets Edward Hopper in photo form. Okay, maybe not. If only all my photos were so inspired....

There are also a great number of light festival venues in Denver. The last two years, we've gone to the Botanic Garden with my aunt.

There seemed to be a particularly high percentage of seniors on the night we visited the Botanic Garden. A few were NOT happy to see Noah and Mattias. In general, I make a point to take the boys to all sorts of more adult-like venues (the art museum, the symphony, nature documentaries at the nearby nature preserve) because I think it's an important part of learning to behave AND these events lack the commercialism that events geared towards children often have. Also, crowded venues filled with children are particularly stressful (for me). Most of the time, I get more compliments and encouragement than disparaging remarks. That was not the case on this particular night, but I shall not be too easily dissuaded from abandoning my strategy.

Sometimes, we don't even need to go out to capture the wonder of the darkness and artificial lights. A few candles on the table at dinnertime will lull the boys into at least 10 minutes of quiet eating and drinking before their attention shifts to blowing out the candles from their chairs.


Pregnantly Plump said...

Those events seem so cool! We don't have anything like the lantern walk around here. That would be very fun. As for the Botanic Garden, I hate that people were rude. That's frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I went with my daughter's school class to a musical the other day. The kids weren't very loud, but certainly not as quiet as those old ladies sitting on the S-Bahn and staring out of the window. And sure enough, one complained. My mouth stood open and I could not find a good reply, but the teacher just said: I don't think my kids are too loud. period. I admired her for her coolness and decided to try it next time I am out with all my four kids....and yes, it helps to think: hey, my kids will pay for your retirement some day, will provide medical services - better keep them happy, right?