The Winter Solstice Parade in Kensington Market

Being a Freelance Web Developer, Nick recently joined a co-working community called The Foundery, who offer a shared working environment for art, design, technology & entrepreneurship, at 376 Bathurst Street, just north of Dundas. [FOLLOW-UP: The Foundery Shared Workspace in Toronto has closed.]

So far, he’s been really happy there so when they announced they were hosting a holiday party, he invited me along to meet his new friends.

I was particularly excited to go when I heard the party was a Winter Solstice celebration, during which we’d be making lanterns and then heading out to join the Winter Solstice Parade in Kensington Market. 2016 marked the 27th year that this independently organized festival will have drawn enthusiastic crowds. For one reason or another, I’d never been before, but have always wanted to go.

We left our place at 5pm on December 21st, warmly dressed on what was the shortest day of the year. The skies were clear, the air crisp, and complete darkness had already set in.

We arrived to meet a group of friendly people gathered around a table covered in crafting supplies, creating lantern masterpieces that would light their way on this special night.

Then we walked the few blocks east to the place where the parade was to begin in the northern part of Kensington Market. Not surprisingly, we immediately got separated from the others in the massive crowd. Rather than push into the thick of things, we opted to stand at the back.

The event began with a fire lighting ceremony that involved people on stilts and great bursts of fire breathing, although I was too far away to get a good picture.

Then, suddenly, all those people were headed straight for us! We quickly scooched over to the side to let them by, and so lucked into what might have been the best spot to be. We had an unobstructed view of the parade as it passed right by us.

There were beautiful papier-mache puppets, some so large that it took three people to carry them. There were also whimsically dressed musicians.

Everyone was invited to follow the parade through the streets of Kensington Market. Since we’d let everyone by, we trailed along behind, so when we arrived at the final destination, the baseball diamond in Alexandria Park, where a fire-centric show was to take place, we were at the very back and couldn’t really see much of what was going on. I only got a few bad photos but you can check out this 30 second video produced by BlogTo, if you’d like to see what was going on, up close.

We reconvened at The Foundery after it was over, where one of Nick’s co-workers, Anna, made a pot of mulled wine to warm us all up, following a family recipe containing a blend of spices including cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, and fresh citrus. It was so good. She shared the recipe so I’ll be making some just like it on a cold winter’s night to come.

↑ Nick and some of his co-workers ↑

The whole evening was great. As Nick and I walked home in the lightly falling snow, we agreed that it had been one of the most fun work holiday parties either of us had ever been to.