What is Illumination Night at Martha’s Vineyard?
We’ve talked a lot about Martha’s Vineyard, and we have said nothing but praises, compliments, and tributes. This dreamy traveling destination is deserving of it all, there’s no doubt about it; still, I think we have forgotten to mention a very, very special event so far…
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The Grand Illumination Night! A night when all of the picturesque settings are light up in a divine combination of radiance, colors and music!
The Grand Illumination Night has been an indispensable, signature summer event on Martha’s Vineyard ever since August 14 in 1869, when the first Illumination Night was held in honor of the visit of the governor of Massachusetts. My personal guess is that it was so much of a charming event that decided to not let it go just like that. Ever since then, the occasion takes place every third Wednesday in August; after dusk, of course, for the hundreds of lanterns to light up the night! Like magic!
Well, more or so like Japanese lanterns, but you get the idea!
Though, you have to admit it feels a little like magic. I mean, how else could you describe hundreds of colorful lights decorating the ever-famous Victorian Gingerbread Cottages?
I know I’ve said that the best time to visit Martha’s Vineyard is around autumn due to the pleasant, not-too-hot-not-too-cold weather, and the lack of tourists’ crowds for easy booking in the prestigious, comfortable hotels and cottages; yet this summer experience is worthy of an exception – and worth dealing with some slightly packed streets around the town.
As a rule, the overall Illumination Night event starts around 7:30 in the evening at the Tabernacle and with an introduction to the celebration along with a performance from the Vineyard Haven Band’s part. Then the community singing and piano duets follow, for playing the favorites around the island. (Who doesn’t loves “In the Good Old Summertime” of George Evans?)
Following all of the partying, at 8:30 p.m., the outer lights go down and the first lantern is set alight by the honorary lamplighter.
Finally, by 8:45 p.m. it is when the public is allowed to get lost in the sparkling scene as the band plays an accompanying concert. Go around and have fun while listening to music! Get lost in the color and luminescence! You’re in a magical night, in a beautiful setting, you deserve to enjoy.
But, sure, if even Cinderella had to go home at some point, by between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. the church bells state publicly the end of the festivities. It’s sad, I know, but it is for a short time and the special date for celebrating, that this party is so unique and worth remembering.
By the way, the Grand Illumination night is a free-will offering event, with guests encouraged to donate what they can, so if you feel generous and willing to repay the amazing time you just spent with the lights, then don’t be shy in showing it.
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