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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Martha's Vineyard -- The Grand Illumination

Sometimes you have a moment, an event, an experience, that simply defies expectations, that makes you believe in magic, the magic of feeling, of being.


That's the experience I had with the Grand Illumination in Oak Bluffs.


A couple of posts ago, we visited the Martha's Vineyard Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs and so many of you, like me, loved the gingerbread houses. But you haven't seen anything yet!


The Illumination is an annual event taking place the third Wednesday of August, with a Friday rain-date for back-up. It is the time when residents of the gingerbread cottages hang lanterns and join in a celebration that includes a sing-along.


This tradition began in 1868 when the Governor of Massachusetts was visiting Oak Bluffs. What a welcome!



Our evening began as we walked to the camp ground, noticing that the houses were decorated with lanterns. It was getting close to dusk.

               

We went right to the campground's Tabernacle, a huge, open air but covered structure that is quite magnificent in itself.


Numerous stained glass windows high on the structure offer light. There is a stage and seating for 4,000.



Graduations are held here and so is the Grand Illumination community sing. The Vineyard Haven band was playing when we arrived and we were lucky to get a seat inside. Many, many attendees were gathered on the green outside the Tabernacle.


After selections by the band, a gentleman led the community sing. It was filled with the fun kinds of songs that if we didn't grow up with them, our parents did! We started with the "Star Spangled Banner" and then joined in on "East Side, West Side," "In the Good Old Summertime," a patriotic medley, "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and many more.


When you hear 4,000-plus voices raised in song and see the smiles (especially with some of the "action" songs that included hand motions, it gives you a bit of goosebumping!



At the magic hour, the lights are turned off and the oldest member of the campground lights the first lantern. Then the lanterns on the tabernacle come on.


Then, like magic, every house lights the lanterns with which they have decorated their porches, balconies and front yards.

              

All the people walk from house to house -- in no order, just as it suits you. Residents are almost always on the porch, often enjoying snacks with friends, and eager to accept compliments from the passers by.


 The amount of work put into this is significant. And fast. Remember, I was there the day before and there wasn't much of a hint of action going on. A few people were setting up some lights but for the most part, all the decorating had been done that day.

              

The whole event was such a display of community, of heart, of love of tradition and love of home. It was incredibly moving.



What's more, is that the next day we came back in the morning on the way to the ferry. And every lantern was gone.


Poof.


Disappeared.


And when it was over, when we were back in our room, all I could think of was community.


And beauty.


Creativity.


Dedication.


And yes...


...magic.

(And p.s. -- if you're not tired of Illumination night yet, check out this older Susan Branch post. She nails it -- from an Islander's perspective, too!

This post is linked to Share Your Cup and Thoughts of Home on Thursday.  Please visit for fun links about all sorts of things you'll enjoy!

30 comments:

Joanne Huffman said...

What a fun event!

Marilyn Miller said...

This brings tears to my eyes. How fortunate for you to have been there for this magical evening. I had heard of it and would love being there, but your sharing makes me feel that for a little bit I was there with you.

Barb said...

What a fabulous event you had the good fortune to be part of. It reminds me of the Zen practice of creating beauty and knowing it will exist for only a very short time. The fleeting beauty is in the moment and in the fellowship. Great photos of the lovely lanterns, Jeanie. I hope Rick is doing well on his ride.

Mae Travels said...

Luck was really on your side! Like a definition of serendipity!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Mary Rose's said...

Oh ... this is the BEST!
Thank you for all the lovely (and loving) details you put in this post.
I got chills when I read the lights went out, and then the oldest campground member lit one lantern, and then all the rest came on!
This was entirely new to me, and your story telling unfolded it so beautifully.

The photos were wonderful x 1,000 too.

Illumination Night corresponds so perfectly to YOU.

Happy end of summer, Jeanie. Orion is in the pre-dawn skies now, and even here in SC the heat is beginning to slack off.

XOXO
Maryanne

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

You were SO lucky to visit the island at just the right time. Seems it was a very magical time, from the Obamas visiting to Illuminations night. Not sure how much luckier you you could get, but your beautiful photos show it all, and your narrative describes it perfectly. Couldn't have asked for a better day to visit you, either!

My name is Erika. said...

Wow- that makes those other gingerbread photos look rather plain and boring. Well not really but wow. Adding those lights really dresses them up. Like Christmas in the summer. nd I bet the sing along was a blast. Hugs-Erika

Kitty said...

I never heard about this but I almost feel like I was there with you. I love the oriental paper umbrellas. I brought a couple of them home from Taiwan. Lots of love.

Valerie-Jael said...

Wonderful - what an unforgettable experience. Thanks for sharing he photos. Hugs, Valerie

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Hello dear Jeanie! I have no internet so I am on my.phone making it difficult to tyoe. Gorgeous festivities and happiness all around!!!!!!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh my gosh, this is the coolest event. That is so awesome that your visit coincided with this special event. The sing along sounds so cool, too. I'm sure is something you'll never forget!

La Table De Nana said...

Makes one want to live there..I bought lanterns after reading and seeing this many many yrs ago..I put them in my screend in porch for a dinner..and one caught fire.I will never forget.:)WE put it out quickly..no damage was done..thank goodness.

shoreacres said...

It's like Christmas lighting and carol singing -- communities sharing, and enjoying the simpler things in life. Of course, there's nothing simple about the decorations in those photos. There's a lot of work and care behind them.

The lighting process reminds me of the old candlelight services on Christmas eve, when two people would light their hand candles from the altar lights, then carry them to the congregation. As people passed the light to one another, the church slowly would take on the glow of hundreds of candles. I've been to churches that have substituted battery-powered candles "for safety reasons." A pox on them all, sez me!

Sheila said...

How fabulous is this! Thank you for sharing! I would have enjoyed the sing a long. When I was about 60 years younger than I am now, we would often go for picnics with my grandparents. At the end of the day, on the drive home, we would have a sing song in the car, I learned many old songs then. My grandad had served in WW1 and a lot of the songs dated back to then.

bj said...

Such a magical place, this Martha's Vineyard.....
Susan Branch lives there...did you drive by her beautiful house ?

I need orange said...

Lovely.

Thank you for sharing it with us!

Tammie Lee said...

the lanterns are so beautiful all lit up.
So glad that you had a good time. You look so happy.

Summer said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. It looks like an amazing and really magical event ♥

summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

Red Rose Alley said...

What a beautiful event this is, Jeanie. The colorful lanterns are awesome. I love the moon one! Everything looks magical all lit up. That pink cottage house is sweet. Wow, this tradition began in 1868, how wonderful! What a great time for all.

~Sheri

Arti said...

Lovely! Coincidentally we too have a lantern exhibition here right in the Calgary zoo with illuminated animal lanterns. And you know what, this falls right in the period when the Chinese celebrate "Mid Autumn Festival". That's when the moon is roundest in the year according to the Lunar calendar and the tradition has its origin in a folk legend. And we have been lighting lanterns in that festival (Aug. 15 according to Lunar calendar, and that usually falls on the 2nd week of Sept.
For thousands of years, and eat moon cakes as well in the celebration.

Also, wrote down my thoughts on Cafe Society in my reply to your comment in my post.

Wandering Wren said...

What a fun, happy magical event. A sense of community in life is so important, we don't do anything like this where we live, although we do all head to the local park with a bottle of wine at Christmas! Beautiful lanterns.
I am so pleased to have connected with you through Blogging too, thank you for your beautiful comment on my blogging inspo' post. I'm glad we share the same on-line community :)
Wren x

Lynne said...

Oh my Jeanie . . .
SPECTACULAR . . .
Sending this on the my friend who goes to MV often . . .
Super, wonderful, exceptional post . . .
Thank you for the chance to see this through your eyes!

Joyful said...

It sounds like a beautiful celebration. I've never heard of it before. I love all the gingerbread houses and paper lanterns and umbrellas. I'm sure the lighting of the lanterns is very magical.

Sandra Cox said...

What fun!

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Love the energy! What an event to experience.
This reminds me of our 10 day trip to Colorado-and one of the events that we participated in. It was the BAR D Chuckwagon music and dinner event set against the side of the Colorado mountains. Breathtaking and a perfect mix of Western folklore and Patriotism-felt so good!
Jemma

The French Hutch said...

I have goosebumps now, just reading this. Honestly Jeanie i would be in heaven if I could do this! How lucky you were to be in the right place at the right time. Sing alongs, lights and walks in town sound like magic. Thanks for sharing this.............Awesome post!

~*~Patty S said...

Timing is everything isn't it.
What a glorious and magical evening you had.
I am at a loss for words...
thank you so much for snapping some photos to share with us.
The lanterns are delightful and those paper parasols really make me swoon! ♥♥♥
oxo

Bella Rum said...

I bet they spend as much time and effort on decorating their homes for the grand illumination as we do for Christmas. What a sight. I can see why you called it magical!

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

The gingerbread houses had been my main reason to visit Martha's Vineyard and I was not disappointed. I just loved them. The illumination night must have been fun for home owners and visitors but also for retailers who sell lanterns. :) It's amazing to see all the different shapes and designs.

Art and Sand said...

What a fun celebration!

Thanks for sharing with SYC.

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