Celebrations turn the spotlight on our darkest day
Falling near the traditional holiday season, there’s another event that can take on special meaning at northern latitudes such as our own here in Alaska. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. But that just means that the next day is a little longer, and the day after that is longer still. It’s not a new year yet, but cosmically speaking, we’ve turned a corner. Summer may get much more sun, but for me, winter solstice is still a celebration all about light. And this year, especially, there are a few good ways to party leading up to that special day.
The Anchorage International Film Festival marks 13 years of bringing hot filmmakers and films to Anchorage. Feature films, documentaries, shorts and animation all have a home at the festival. Expect talented hometown auteurs in the mix with filmmakers from as far away as Kenya and Afghanistan. This year’s festival runs from Dec. 5 to 16. New this year: the Great Alaskan Short Film Contest. The new contest features films of between 15 and 25 minutes made entirely in Alaska.
Fight the urge to hunker down; get up and get dancing with Paul Oakenfold on Dec. 19. A career spanning 30 years in electronic music has taken Oakenfold from clubs and festivals to movie soundtracks and huge events with artists like U2 and Madonna. His electronic beats will fill the Bear Tooth Theatrepub for what’s being billed as a “special dance party.” It may be dark outside, but don’t be surprised if there’s a multicolored feast for your eyes inside the venue.
There is more than one way to get a dose of color this winter. If you prefer tee off to techno, mini golfing in Anchorage incorporates light – black light – to give you neon-hued fun year-round. Putters Wild has 18 holes of mini-golf with huge murals of sea life jumping into the third dimension. Mastering this course may not put you on the PGA tour, but duffers of all ages will enjoy hunting for birdies here.
Of course with the holiday season there is a litany of holiday-themed events from which to select. The full list is up at Anchorage.net, but if you’re interested in something a little different this year, Cirque Dreams Holidaze might be the way to go. This is the show that proves more than just that reindeer fly during the holiday season. Acrobats, jugglers and puppeteers fill the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts Dec. 26-29. Consider it high-wire holiday cheer!
For Athabascans, winter was considered “the time we gathered together,” according to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. I’ve always thought it a poignant way to sum up solstice in Alaska: a time to catch up with friends and celebrate.