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The burning of the fire at the end of the Kensington Market Winter Solstice Parade | Image Source: Rebeka Tabobondung

Winter Solstice gives birth to the new sun on the longest night of the year. It marks the first day of winter and the return of the sun as the days now get longer and nights shorter. It’s a time connected to new promises, change and to share stories. “It is during that longest night that we honour our way of life. We follow the New Sun across the sky as it watches over us. It is a time when we would honour our ancestors and what they have left for us. The Winter Solstice is a time when we honour the Trail of the Turtle.” The turtle leaves us a trail to follow, and we are all given a chance to walk that trail.

Red Pepper Spectacle’s Kensington Market Winter Solstice Parade has been bringing people together to share stories and celebrate the longest night of the year with loved ones for twenty-six years. Administrative Director, Lisa McCue (Ojibwe) says, “It brings a sense of community down to Kensington Market, especially for a lot of people who don’t have family or those types of connections here. This is kind of like a home for those people. It’s a place for us to just connect together.”

Shadow puppets at the Kensington Market Winter Solstice Parade
Shadow Puppets at the Kensington Market Winter Solstice Parade, December 21, 2015 | Image Source: Rebeka Tabobondung

The arts organization works hard to inject Indigenous inspired installations along the parade route that have been worked on by Indigenous artists from the Toronto area. Red Pepper has partnered with Indigenous artists and other organizations such as Phil Cote, Isaiah Kada, Spirit Wind Singers, Marie Gaudet, Na-Me-Res. Indigenous artist, Greg Koostachin has created a Norval Morrisseau inspired installation for the route.

Once the parade comes to an end, each year, a fire is lit in Alexandria Park. This signifies the rebirth and renewal of the new sun and new year to come. McCue says that “It’s a different theme every year. This year we built two hands to represent the community coming together. In the past we’ve done a phoenix. The community comes together to decide what that image is going to be.”

This year the important community based parade faces the challenge of having their funding cut in half. While Red Pepper strives to keep the parade non-profit and commercial free, McCue explains that, “ We have been asking for community support through our Indiegogo Campaign and through volunteers. The campaign] will be up for 5 days after the festival.”

To donate to their Indiegogo Campaign go to:

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About The Author

Erica Commanda

Born in Toronto, Erica Commanda (Algonquin/Ojibwe) grew up in the small community of Pikwakanagan. From there she moved across Canada living in Ottawa, Vancouver and now Toronto, working in the bar/hospitality industry, mastering the art of listening to stories from her regulars while slinging and spilling drinks (at them or to them). And now through a series of random decisions and events in life she is on a journey discovering and mastering her own knack for storytelling as Associate Editor for MUSKRAT Magazine.

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