Darkness creeps up on us in October. Between the first and the 31st, we lose 1 hour and 24 minutes of daylight. Then we “fall back” over the first weekend of November and BOOM, suddenly it’s dark at dinnertime.

But in Albany’s Washington Park last Sunday, hundreds of lanterns warmed the early darkness. The fourth Albany Lantern Parade welcomed hundreds of neighbors, students, and supporters of the host organization, the Washington Park Conservancy.

The parade itself was preceded by a dozen free lantern-making workshops held across the city. At library branches, 3Fish Cafe, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Albany Art Room and Fort Orange General Store, people of all ages glued tissue paper to soda bottles and attached pipe cleaner handles. Battery-operated candles were provided at the event.

“We’re walking with lanterns to share some light as the days become shorter,” said Sarah Read, the event organizer. “This is about our Albany community coming together for a simple, free event to celebrate art, community and warmth on an evening few people look forward to – the day we have to turn back the clocks. If you come to a workshop, you’ll meet new people, and the night of the walk you’ll recognize these new friends – that’s the community-building we’re going for.”

Sunday evening was blustery and chilly, but the Washington Park Lakehouse was a hive of activity.

Albany Women Drummers returned to play for a second year, and students from the Albany School of Humanities led the parade with the lanterns they made in their art and social studies classes. Washington Park Conservancy members wearing yellow vests greeted people and distributed candles, apples, cider and donuts, assisted by the Tulip Queen and her court.

As the sun set and the park darkened, Kim Tateo – a local artist and farm manager at the Tivoli Preserve – played guitar and led the crowd in singing “This Little Light of Mine.” The marchers set out in a loop around Washington Park Lake, marked in advance by luminarias bearing the Washington Park Conservancy logo.

The first lantern-bearers were coming across the footbridge when a few drops of rain started to fall, but it quickly stopped. Twinkling lights were strung out all around the lake, bobbing as their bearers made their way. Walking home from the park, warm golden light beckoned from the historic homes of Center Square.

It may be getting dark earlier, but we should all strive to find ways to bring a little light into our lives. What are your seasonal or holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments!

Colleen M. Ryan has always been a storyteller. An innovative communications professional with experience in government, nonprofit and business sectors, she recently launched CMR Communications.

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