A local event in the seaside city of Brighton is the annual Burning of the Clocks. Participated by 2,000 people and witnessed by up to 20,000 spectators, the organizers behind the event, Same Sky, still aims to further promote this festivity.
Organized by a charity-based artist and local group, Burning of the Clock is the community’s answer to the threat of commercialism of Christmas. Brighton is a strong LBGT community and this event shows that they have festive occasion that is not boxed by a single orientation, beliefs, and religion.
Burning the Clocks is a winter solstice, a merry event involving the whole community with different activities like parade culminating into burning a big clock structure, usually a giant lantern.
What is the significance of clock and burning it? Burning the Clock happens every December 21st, the time that the East has the shortest day of the year. It marks that start of longer nights in winter season and the burning means passing time and a new beginning.
A Lantern Parade
The main pieces of this event are the lanterns and they are not made from expensive materials either. Burning of the Clocks feature lanterns made from willow, bamboo, and paper. Usually people use tissue paper.
The look simple but the personal touches, mostly drawings and arts makes this unique. Every year, the festival has a certain theme, but the common designs will always include a clock face.
The uniqueness of Brighton’s winter event is it can include everyone – across all ages, gender, and beliefs. Everyone looks forward making their own lanterns. Weeks leading to the event, there are lantern-making workshops, they are also lantern kits for sale as part of the organizer’s fundraising activities.
Families and even local schools participate in the Burning of the Clocks, braving the freezing winter temperature. They gather in one venue in the city center and before the lantern parade can start, each lantern is inspected for safety purposes.
While spectators excitedly line up along the streets of downtown Brighton, the parade starts with music and dances. Nothing flashy or extravagant compared to other festivals, but pure and relaxed winter entertainment.
The simplicity of the willow and paper lanterns with personal drawings is one of the reasons why this festival is making a buzz even outside England. The parade proceeds to the seafront of Brighton Beach where more spectators are waiting to witness the burning of the lanterns and the giant clock structure from the elevated Madeira Drive.
Letting Go, New Beginnings
Once the parade has progressed to the beachfront, the most anticipated part of this occasion happens. Along the beach is a bonfire and one by one, each will pass their lanterns into the bonfire and then released into the air.
As more and more lanterns are burned and released, the winter night sky turns into a beautiful fire show. Passing the lanterns by the fire is symbolic. With each lantern, the owner puts their wishes, dreams, even heartaches. As each of them are burned and released, it is sincere wish to have those aspiration come true as well as an act of letting of things that burdens somebody.
Together with the fire show in the sky, music plays keeps the event jolly. Towards the end is the burning of the large clock structure of lantern. An artist designs this structure and each year, a featured artist is tasked to plan and design the clock to be burned.
As the clock burns along the beach, everyone who is present will realize that it is a signal of a new beginning.
Burning the Clocks has been around for more than 20 years since it began in 1994 as a community activity. One of the goals behind this event is to provide a winter affair that is festive yet not commercialized especially compared to how people have been observing Christmas.
As a small city, Brighton aims to have more funds to sustain the event and it is a group effort to keep Burning of Clocks an annual event for everybody, young or old. The only time the event was cancelled was in 2009 due to tremendous severe winter with icy pavements posing great dancing to both participants and spectators.
The simplicity yet meaningful event such as Burning the Clocks has drawn more people to visit Brighton. This seaside resort city is located in East Sussex, England and easily reached even from London via train or plane.
The nearest airport from Brisbane is London Gatwick Airport and Brighton is only 30 minutes away by train. From Heathrow, the city is a 40-munite-plane ride.
Witnessing the Burning of the Clock is another top things to do in the city. Brighton is a lovely place to enjoy great weekends even for winter holidays. In terms of tourists facilities and amenities and services, there is no need to worry for there are quite many options from hotels to restaurants to suit different tastes and budget.