Holiday CircleFest celebrates 25 years

December 3, 2018

Holiday CircleFest celebrates 25 years

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- When Robin VanLear first entertained the thought of a lantern festival 25 years ago, she thought tying it to the Winter Solstice made sense.

The lateness of the solstice, which falls on December 21st, combined with University Circle Inc. wanting to invent a new holiday tradition, created a partnership that would become Holiday CircleFest.

“The idea behind the Winter Lights Lantern Festival is to celebrate the fact we have so much night,” said VanLear, director of community arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “It’s a natural instinct to want to light a candle in the dark and enjoy that palette of light.”

VanLear believes all over the world people celebrate darkness with candles and light. “You have Christmas where everybody lights the trees. Hannukah you have the Menorah at the center of it, and light is a part of Kwanzaa. Pagan celebrations in the winter had processions with lights and candles,” she said.

This year’s festival is about the glory of nature. Everything in the procession, the Heralds with their bird skulls, a kaleidoscope of butterflies, and a giant rabbit celebrate the magnitude of nature.

VanLear likens her role to that of an orchestra conductor as she leads the procession from the atrium of the art museum.   “I’m in costume but I’m making sure everybody is okay and directing them to Wade Oval,” she said. “At that point I’m more of a spectator until it’s time for the procession to reconvene and return to the museum.”

The Holiday CircleFest is a free annual University Circle-wide event. More than a dozen institutions open their doors for the festivities, this year stretched over three days.

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