Burning The Clocks: A UK Fest That Rails Against Christmastime Consumerism

Article by: Laura Mason|@masonlazarus

Sat December 17, 2016 | 00:00 AM

Each Winter Solstice on the night-shrouded beaches of Brighton, England, a unique festival of light (with an anti-commercialism twist) that starts with a magical parade of lanterns and ends in an epic fireball takes place.

Hero Burning The Clocks Ray Gibson

Photo by: Ray Gibson

It's called Burning the Clocks , and it was founded by the charity Same Sky as a way to celebrate get into the holiday spirit regardless of people's religious beliefs. It's about community and creating together – not spending the end of your year holed up in a shopping mall stressing over which pair of socks to buy your dad, or being told to "Keep The Christ in Christmas." Leading up to the beach bonfire, people are encouraged to create their own unique lanterns made from willow canes or bamboo and white tissue paper, all according to the chosen theme of the year. The lanterns are meant to let people express the accomplishments they're proud of, or their hopes and dreams for the year to come. 

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Photo by: Ray Gibson

Lantern-making workshops are held ahead of the event for homeless youth and other disadvantaged locals. The spirit of giving is truly emphasized as volunteers encourage them to create something they can be proud of – this passion and sense of community united through self-expression and art aren't things you see often this time of year.

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Photo by: Ray Gibson

On December 21st, people meet at 5 pm. Once all the handmade lanterns are checked out and lit up, the spectacle begins at around 6:30 pm, as the crowd of around 2,000 people representing all ages make their way down New Road. Some 20,000 eager spectators gather to cheer as the parade of light winds its way through the streets and down to the shore, braving the cold to witness this motley procession of white shapes illuminating the darkness of the longest night for the year. At approximately 7:15 pm the last group of the parade arrives at the beach to the beating of drums and the fire show springs to life.

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Photo by: Ray Gibson

The fire show itself is similar to the symbolic burning of art at Burning Man. One by one people pass their handmade, combustible lanterns into a flaming bonfire. The burning lanterns carry those hopes and dreams of the participants into the sky. As the music builds the larger lanterns are ignited and the crowd roars with excitement. The evening ends at around 8 pm with a crescendo of fireworks exploding over the coastline, welcoming a prosperous season ahead in a flurry of warm light.

Same Sky receives some funding from area city councils, but relies mostly on donations to put on Burning The Clocks. To give, be sure to visit the organization's website here.