I love the lengthening nights of winter, when daylight is whittled away to a luminous sliver and everything seems lit from within by an inner incandescence.
The days count down to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the solar year - a time of ice and fire, when darkness and light are weighed in the scales and the red-gold reign of the sun gives way to the silvered, frosty dominion of the moon.
We humans are hunkering down together, snuggling up and kindling the lights that ward off the chill and warm the heart. Winter festivals the world over revolve around light and community, including Tallahassee's own Festival of Lights, which will twinkle and jingle and dazzle downtown Saturday.
I like this festival more than the annual Springtime Tallahassee celebration, which takes place in the soft, bright light of a spring day. There's something about a nighttime festivity that makes it more cozy, more whimsical and more magical. People are bundled up (if it's cold enough - there have been plenty of winter fests in Tallahassee with temperatures in the 70s and even 80s) and the runners in the Jingle Bell Run are decked out in goofy outfits - antler hats, strings of lights around their bodies, reindeer noses, elf ears and other accoutrements.
The crisper winter air makes all the food smell particularly delicious. It's fun to stop for libations at a downtown bar before and after the parade, which seems to stretch on into the night with bands tootling holiday tunes, corporate-sponsored floats, marching brigades, neighborhood posses and more.
And there's music a-plenty, and other live entertainment on stages sprinkled throughout the downtown area. This year, ice-skating returns to Kleman Plaza, for those with the ankles and chutzpah to try it.
So go forth, good people, and celebrate both the season and the city fest's silver anniversary at the 25th Anniversary Winter Festival: A Celebration of Lights, Music & the Arts on Saturday. The festivities commence at 3 p.m. and wrap up at 10 p.m. Wander downtown early and you can check out the Culture to Culture Rock-a-thon from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the John G. Riley Center & Museum.
Be sure to have a good spot staked out for that breathtaking moment when the switch is flipped and the lights come on in the majestic live oaks in the Downtown Chain of Parks.
To find out more about the festival and its auxiliary events, visit www.talgov.com/parks/winter/index.cfm. And have a happy, light-filled holiday season!