a peek inside the fishbowl

16 Aug, 2006

The festival of lights

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy

Late Saturday night our two children collapsed into bed, totally exhausted, but happy. Sarah and Emma both announced that it had been The Best Day Ever. And for them, two kids who have a great day practically Every Day, that says a lot.

On Saturday night the four of us went to the Lumiere Festival. It’s a festival of lights (Lumiere means light in French) and this was our first time attending.

Volunteers make hundreds of paper lanterns and set them up around a public park. Festivities begin around 6:00 pm, but it’s best after dark when all the lanterns are lit.

It is a distinctly non-commerical affair. And for this I am grateful. There was music. There was wandering entertainment. There were puppets. There was a big snake of rope to climb. There were no carnies trying to bilk you out of money. There were no cheesy souvenirs. There was no commercial presence beyond a Bridgehead coffee stand. This was home-made to the core.

While there was still daylight the kids played in a maze of boxes. You know how kids like to play in cardboard boxes, big and small… Well imagine 50 of them duct taped together. This was Kid Heaven.

But for me it was the lanterns. Almost everyone was carrying their own personal little beacon: whether it was a painted jam jar with a tea light inside or a bamboo and tissue-paper contraption.

And no one ran around complaining about the fire hazard.

Participants were encouraged to come in costume. There were hundreds of little children dressed as fairies. Some adults dressed as witches and wizards. It was a sight to behold.

There was one small incident in which we almost lost our youngest daughter, otherwise they both walked around as if they were hypnotized. It all looked pretty amazing from my perspective. I can only imagine what it looked like at their level.

Imagine walking down a dark path illuminated by tealights in Chinese takeout boxes. Imagine a maze of glowing paper bags grounded with sand. Imagine Chinese lanterns hanging on branches of old trees, bobbing in the cool evening breeze.

We ran into many parent friends of ours. And rightly so. This is a kidfest. Some of the more sophisticated urban adults wouldn’t find anything entertaining around here. And that’s just as well.

We drove through downtown Ottawa on the way home. There were fireworks going off in Gatineau so we pulled over beside the Supreme Court building to watch them.

The girls were too tired, so we left after 10 minutes. As we pulled onto the road we drove up beside a horse-drawn carriage and stopped at a red light. I had my camera out. A man leaned over the side of the carriage and looked down at me in the passenger seat. He had a champagne flute in his hand. He was grinning. He raised the glass.

“She said YES!”

We applauded. (Or maybe it was just me?) I yelled out our congratulations. The light changed. The light had changed and we were moving. We pulled forward. I saw the girl. She was blonde. And laughing her head off. Her grin covered her face.

“When’s the big day?” I shouted.

“I don’t know!” he replied.

“Well that should have been your SECOND question!”

I love it when things like that happen, when strangers include me in their happiness. How wonderful is that?

(View the flickr set here.)

1 Response to "The festival of lights"

1 | The Ultimate Ottawa bucket list! >> a peek inside the fishbowl

April 25th, 2012 at 11:07 am


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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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