Most people marked the shortest day of 2014 either beating each other up over crap gifts on densely-packed high streets, or nursing Saturday’s hangover, wallowing in their own filth, only just resisting the urge to take a bath with their favourite electronic appliance plugged in at the mains.
But that’s not how things are done in Brighton! Instead, half the city took to the streets to watch a load of camply outfitted processionists (definitely a word) prance about to the sound of brass bands and beating drums, culminating in a massive bonfire and fireworks display on the beach.
Sounds much more preferable, doesn’t it? No wonder Brighton was recently voted the third most ideal place to live in the UK.
So, what’s this joyous event all about? Well, for 21 years now a local arts group called Same Sky have organised an event called “Burning the Clocks” – AKA the most Brighton way possible to celebrate the Winter Solstice.
Basically, all the local kiddies make paper lanterns and parade them through the crisp, sunless streets towards the beach, and at the end of the night a huge paper clock is burned, along with all the lanterns, to mark the point that the days begin to get mercifully longer once more.
It’s brilliantly pagan, fantastic fun, and the best way to get over the Vitamin-D deficiency inherently created by being (as most of us are) desk jockeys in a country that’s probably a good thousand or so miles further north than we’d really like it to be.
I visited the Burning of the Clocks parade for the first time this year and had a great time pub hopping along the parade route, drinking a few too many mulled ciders for a Sunday night and huddling up with my buddies on the beach whilst a thousand people timidly yelled “burn it, burn it, burn it” at a big paper clock in the most English way possible.
Then, they burnt it, there were some nice fireworks, and we went to drink some more and watch a live band that played a lot of Backstreet Boys songs. All for free! (Unless you donated to the Same Sky crowdfunding campaign, which they ran this year.)
Here’s a little video my phone made for me, chronicling the uplifting winter’s night.