Winter Solstice Celebrations
Winter Solstice. In the build up to an often over commercialised christmas, the winter solstice often passes without note. Occurring on either the 21st or 22nd December depending on the astronomical calendar, the shortest day, and the longest night mark the arrival of deep midwinter. In ancient times the coming of the hardest part of the year would often be a period of great hardship, famine and often death.
Montol. Nowadays in Britain Stonehenge sees large crowds gathering to witness the sunrise on the winter’s solstice, whilst in Penzance there is Montol - a six day winter festival culminating in the festivities that mark Montol Eve. Montol is a modern day revival of celebrations dating back to ancient times. The evening’s festivities include: torch lit processions, led by the Turkey Rhubarb Guise Band- playing old fashioned instruments, with many of the participants dressed in costume, as they make their way through the narrow streets of the town and the lighting of fire beacons, and a lantern parade, with lanterns made by many of the local schoolchildren.
Flaming torch light processions. One of the evening's processions makes its way to Lescudjack Hillfort, and the lighting of the fire beacon by the Lord of Misrule. To parade back down the narrow lanes of West Cornwall, returning to the town- hence the name Rivers of Fire. Another procession much later in the evening winds through Chapel Street, towards the harbour, where another beacon is at at midnight. Witness the lighting of the Yule Log. Anyone can join in the parades, but dressing up “Mock Posh“ is essential. Mention must also be made of the cabaret at St Johns Hall at 8pm.
The whole spectacle is a visual and sensory delight, from the reds and oranges of the flickering torches , to the Venetian style masks worn by the guisers , to the colourful costumes and top hats worn by many of the participants. Try and forget the slightly some might say unsettling Pagan feel, particularly a horses skull as a mask worn by one of the participants, and enjoy it for what it is intended to be- an over the top, but happy and joyful celebration to mark the death and rebirth of the sun.Montol on Youtube
Please check exact dates of events and timings before setting out
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