Winterfest: A Time For Community Healing And Hope

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On Jan. 9, the Garden City Bird Sanctuary (GCBS) will celebrate its 13th annual Winterfest. Ordinarily, I would explain that Winterfest is a holiday we, on the GCBS Board of Directors, began in 2009 to honor all our members and supporters.

It always takes place the second Saturday in January. However, 2020 has been anything but “ordinary;” the word “unprecedented” has been used most often to describe it.

We have seen a worldwide pandemic for the first time in a century. Riots have torn apart our cities. Political strife keeps us divided. We need to come together to heal and move forward in hope.

Winterfest is the means by which this process can get started. Humanity has always flourished in communities. Interdependence is needed for survival. We have a nuclear family, then an extended family and close friends, which continues further into our surrounding neighborhood, state and country.

At Winterfest, we seek to celebrate and strengthen the bond of community that exists in Garden City between families. In so doing, we remember our common purpose and come forth with a greater resolve to be part of the solution to the problems which afflict the world.

Winterfest is full of meaningful ceremonies and traditions which reflect the three virtues that any community needs to survive: volunteerism, environmental stewardship and (most especially) hope.

COVID-19 and the other events of 2020 have left us depressed, locked down and isolated. No more! At Winterfest, we will come together as a unified “one” (while socially distancing in our large nine-acre Sanctuary) to show that we are resilient and will not merely survive but thrive in 2021.

Our ceremonies will include a special thank you to the first responders. We will have a candlelit ceremony to mourn all those who passed in 2020; everyone who attends is invited to write down the name of a loved one lost to be remembered during the service. We will mourn together and honor them by moving forward together in hope.

Winterfest begins at 4 p.m. as twilight approaches. As our supporters file in, there is warm cocoa to drink as we fill the birdfeeders and put up some decorations for our fine feathered friends. About 4:30, we have a poem recitation around our evergreen trees.

Then we have our special ceremonies rich in symbolism. Symbolism is an integral part of any tradition because it links tangible objects and ritual to the intangible ideals, emotions and ideas we wish to hold on to and pass along.

Finally, you will hear the ultimate message of hope that we pass on at Winterfest which is…”All winters must come to an end.” Not just seasonal winters, but the “winters” of COVID-19, social problems, economic problems, relationship problems, health problems, etc.

The great religions of the world tell us even the winter of death itself will give way to a spring of new life. So come on down Jan. 9, to the GCBS and discover Winterfest: a modern holiday celebrating timeless ideals which make communities work. Won’t you become part of our community of healing and hope?

The GCBS is at 182 Tanners Pond Rd. The gates open at 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the general public. It ends at approximately 5 p.m. Hope to see you there.

—John W. Cronin is president of the Garden City Bird Sanctuary Board of Directors

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