Sunday, June 21, 2009

Candle Night

Long before there was Earth Hour, there was Candle Night.

It began in Canada as a simple protest against the Bush administration's proposal to build a nuclear power plant every month. The year was 2001 and the event was held on the summer solstice. The idea was to turn out the lights on the shortest night of the year from 8:00 to 10:00 pm.

A Japanese non-governmental organization (NGO) called the Sloth Club, embraced the idea and held its own lights-out event the same year. The following year another NGO, Daichi-O-Mamorukai (The Association to Preserve the Earth) called the gathering “Candle Night”, and a whole new movement was born.

The concept is elegant in its simplicity - enjoy some quality time with friends and family without the annoyance of artificial light and electronic devices. The idea has since spawned a network and a movement across Japan. Since 2002, Candle Night has been observed on both the summer and winter solstices.

According to the official Candle Night website, the goal is to replace the glare of artificial lighting with natural glow of candles.

“It's not a movement intending to force people to turn off their lights or to raucously protest against anything. Candle Night can offer people time to think about what really matters to them during quiet and quality time in the candlelight, something all of us tend to forget in our busy everyday lives. We hope it will eventually lead us to long-term solutions to current problems and give us a chance to overcome our "economic supremacy." Even though lighting candles may emit small amounts of CO2, we believe the benefits of the Candle Night activities are valuable to our societies and our futures.”

Okay - so a little of the language gets lost in translation. But the idea of being totally unplugged for two hours (or more) is seductive. My mother calls it, "being there". It's that rare occasion when everything stands still and your senses drink in your surroundings until you're completely filled with the moment.

Count me in. I love the idea almost as much as I love the summer solstice – that lazy hazy night when magic is in the air and the fireflies call us to dance in the twilight between the seasons.

In my estimation, Candle Night is a gift that we can choose to accept and embrace. That gift of two whole hours can be used to make love, lie on the grass, the beach, or the roof and watch as the world slowly darkens without the jarring aggravation of artificial light. You can choose to count the stars as they come out, one by one, or sit quietly and listen to the sounds of the evening as the bugs begin to hum in the trees, dogs bark in the distance and leaves rustle overhead. Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes in the grass, the sand or the mud. Hug your children, the dog or your grumpy neighbor.

If the night begins to get chilly, enjoy the luscious coolness of the evening. If it's hot and sticky, revel in the warmth and joy of summer. If it's raining, soak in the magical power of water to renew and refresh both body and soul.

If you really want to dance in the dark, visit a dark skies reserve. These are parks that prohibit artificial light, thus enabling the celestial light of the stars to shine through.

Candle Night is a unique way to mark the Summer Solstice – and the days beyond - by unplugging from the world. From 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, on any night from June 20 to July 7, join in by turning off the lights, unplugging the phone, muting the Blackberry and celebrating by candlelight. Enjoy.


For more information about this unique event, visit

International Dark-Sky Association

For more information on light pollution, check out the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Light Pollution Abatement Program.

Established in 1999, The Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve, located near Bracebridge, Ontario, is the world’s first Dark Sky Reserve. Visit


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