Smashing Times Theatre and Film Company and Slí and Chroí, in partnership with Dublin City Council and Dublin Institute of Technology, held the 8th annual City of Dublin Winter Solstice Celebration Festival, which took place on the 21 of December 2017 from 5.30pm – 8pm. This was a family friendly, participatory, and inclusive community event.
The indoor festival took place from 5.30pm to 7pm at Rathdown House in the DIT Grangegorman Campus. Members of the public enjoyed storytelling sessions, poetry readings, music, face painting, and craft making, where ivy, rattles, holly broaches and withies (a decorated twig for their blessings, prayers, and wishes) were made, to be worn on the subsequent parade. A céilí also took place, with music provided by the Brian Ború Céilí Band, while Lasair (band members Féilim Ó Brádaigh, Dónal Gunning and Niall Mac Dhonnagáin) provided music as people arrived in. Gemma McGowan and actors from the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama were the storytellers. Refreshments were available to buy – tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soft drinks, mince pies, treats – and there was face painting and a children’s colouring corner for the little ones.
The Outdoor Festival and parade took place from 7pm to 8pm. Celebrations then took place on An Croí square at DIT Grangegorman Campus. This featured an outdoor dance and movement drumming sequence performed by artists from the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. The movement piece culminated in the arrival onto the square of the Sun Goddess, the Snow Queen and the Ice Princess. The fire bowl was lit in a ceremony that involved young festivalgoers and a fire taken from Newgrange earlier that morning. Once the fire bowl was alight and lifted up (carried by a team of fire carriers), the parade was led by the fire carriers, the drummers, flag bearers and the Sun Goddess, the Snow Queen and Ice Princess, moving from DIT Grangegorman Campus down to Smithfield Square where it culminated in the Winter Solstice Fire Ceremony.
The parade itself was a massive success, with the festivalgoers all carrying lanterns, rattles, head pieces and broaches being led by the performers in costume, flag bearers, and fire wardens. The public response as the parade passed local business and residential areas was amazing, with many people taking pictures and videos, asking questions about the festival and some joining in the celebration at Smithfield square.
As the parade ended and the festivalgoers circled the fire, poetry was read by Raymond Cadwell, before everyone was invited, one by one, to place their withy into the fire. The Winter Solstice fire was then lifted up to symbolise the solstice celebration and the event came to a close.
Around 750 people took part in the festival. Attendance at the festival came from a broad range of people and ages from babies to individuals over 80 years old.