Sunday, June 17, 2007

Midwinter Fire

The weather gods must enjoy our winter festivals... they certainly smiled on us last night. After a blustery Friday evening, Saturday dawned still and sunny, and stayed that way right through till the evening, which was ideal: still and starry; chilly and clear. As I'm writing on Sunday afternoon, that window of perfect winter weather slammed shut and it is raining once more, but who cares, now that the bonfire has burned to ashes and the lanterns have had their chance to shine.

Bonfire building and lantern creating kept everyone busy all afternoon and built a strong sense of community, with a deputation of children constructing an elaborate pyrotechnic volcano to be lit before the bonfire.

At lunchtime, I'd belatedly discovered my ultra-efficient notes from last year that I had forgotten even making, detailing quantities of soup and mulled wine, bread and puddings. Having failed to match the vat volume, I hurriedly threw another batch of butternut soup together, wondered about producing another batch of bread and generally pondered the catering conundrum, while the menfolk bent their minds to the important task of supporting South Africa against Australia in the Tri-Nations rugby match. Luckily we just won, so they were able to expend the rest of their energy on lanterns and fire duties.

The stunning array of lanterns were carried on sticks in a procession down an avenue of light to our circle and hung around it. Beautiful. A delicate, new, crescent moon peered over the brow of the hill at the proceedings, before shyly retiring over the horizon.

My son and his friend with two adults played a round of recorder music in the circle, with my steady hand bearing the music and a paraffin lamp, then my sister-in-law read St Francis' prayer and we all took turns to read our home-grown blessings. Then licensed pyromania erupted as the volcano was lit, sending sparks heavenwards, a multitude of sparklers whirled and the main bonfire took off, flames shooting straight up in the still night air.

Mulled wine to warm hands and stomachs, then soups, a thick butternut soup with a hint of cinnamon and a robust lentil soup, rich and smoky with ham stock, plaits of home-made white bread, and sausages braaied and eaten in rolls kept us sustained outside till the childrens' usual bedtime, then we trooped inside to see if we had any room left for puddings. It was a hard decision but everybody tried to do justice to the guava fool, chocolate pudding, jelly, apple pudding and puff pastry squares.

Two families stayed the night so the children were able to build another fire sculpture in the morning...
needless to say, they were only supplied with matches to ignite it once the adults were summonsed to provide an attentive audience!

Our house is smiling contentedly to itself today, still humming with the energy of forty friends and family, all working, talking, playing, creating and building together.


  1. What a beautiful event. Your pictures are so stunning I feel as if I had been there.

  2. Oh my, I just want to be a part of your celebrations and to sit at that glorious kitchen table of yours! How wonderul and what fantastic memories you are buildings for your children!

  3. Oh WOW! What an amazing idea - and brave women you for taking on the feeding of the masses. It looks like a wonderful festival and if you need to make up numbers, I'll always be available ;-)

  4. this is just beautiful! i would love to have such a space to entertain the masses! the agriturismo we stayed at in tuscany also had an evening where they invited all the guests at a large communal table underneath our appartment - fantastic food, very convivial. you event looks like something i would have enjoyed very much!

  5. Consider yourselves invited to the next one. We'd love to have you here if you could make it over to South Africa!

  6. Can I attend too? What a great gathering and sharing of local foods, traditions, and friendship. You are blessed and a blessing to others Kit. :)

  7. gorgeous photos to capture a wonderful occasion, apart from the fact that you beat us in the rugby.

    Well done on the catering front too. Fancy having forgotten about your notes from last year! Sounds like something I'd do.


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