Monday, December 24, 2018

A Lantern Walk

I figure that the children don't need me hyping the big North American holidays, especially Christmas, so unlike with days like Martin Luther King Day and Chinese New Year, I tend to let the topic emerge from the kids. The one aspect of the season I do make sure to note, is that the days are getting shorter and shorter leading up to the Winter Solstice, which took place on Friday this year in Seattle at 2:22 pm.

We decided to celebrate with a neighborhood lantern walk around Fremont on Thursday. Our 4's class is an afternoon session and sunset wasn't until shortly after 4 p.m., so it wouldn't quite be dark, but we've had some extremely overcast afternoons lately, and were anticipating another one to give us at least a little dark and damp into which we could shine our lights. We made lanterns during the week. We planned on warm cider and cookies upon our return.

The weather turned out just as we had hoped: overcast and rainy, but with the unwelcome addition of high winds. Indeed, the winds were enough of a concern that there was even some email banter about whether or not we should be roaming the neighborhood with the potential for falling branches. Then, as I was eating my lunch in the classroom, the power went out, followed immediately by the sound of a transformer exploding somewhere near the school. Normally, we cancel school when we don't have power, but there wasn't time to notify everyone so I waited outside in the gust and drizzle, planning to take a poll of the parents as they arrived. The classroom has plenty of windows and enough residual heat to get us through, so I was game for pressing on, which is the sentiment that won the day, with the caveat that should the high winds continue, we would forego the walk and just stick with cider and cookies.

We played in the wet, windy gloom for a time. It was a skeleton crew in that many had already left for their holiday destinations, but we were in high spirits. Several of the kids told me they were excited about the lantern walk. I tried to prepare them for the idea that it might be cancelled, but that didn't dampen their spirits any more than the weather did.

Indoors the hallways were dark and different, but the good news was that we had lanterns. We each carried one to light our way. Normally, the kids race down the hallways, but on this special day, we crept along, seeing the old familiar place in a new light, literally. There was real magic in all those children clustered together, lighting their own paths, finding their own way. The classroom itself was well-lit by the remaining sunlight, but most of the kids opted to keep their lanterns with them. We had made them from glass jars and I worried that they would get broken as we played, but they were cautious.

As we immersed ourselves in our play, I noticed that the room became lighter and lighter. Outside, the winds had died down, but not until after they had blown all the clouds away, leaving us under a high, blue sky. It wouldn't be dark at all for our lantern walk.

That didn't matter, of course. We took our lanterns outside and were joined by a large group of parents who had taken time away from their regular work to join us. We carried our lanterns to The Troll that lives under the bridge, sending light to cheer him. We sent our light to the three billy goat sculptures that cower just down the hill. We spread our light around the neighborhood, to the library, to local businesses, and then back to our school, the setting sun blazing in support. Then back at school, we fell upon our treats, savoring room temperature cider, cheerfully celebrating our community as the long dark night at last descended upon us.

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