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