Build your lantern and join the parade

Welcome the coming light on this, the shortest, darkest day of the year.


Soda Citizens build all kinds of fun lanterns for the winter solstice event. | Photo via One Columbia

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‘Tis the season for holiday lights, but these unique lanterns will soon be the center of attention.

The Winter Solstice Lantern Parade returns to Riverfront Park on Thursday, Dec. 21, with a creatively captivating parade of lights adding a special glow to the holiday season.

Taking place on the shortest and darkest day of the year, the annual event celebrates the turn of the season and the longer days and sunlight hours to come.

Gathering Point and Parade Route

Gather at 5 p.m. at Riverfront Park South (312 Laurel St.) with your handmade LED lanterns (no candles allowed). Park rangers and volunteers will be on hand to assist with lights and lantern setups.

The parade begins at the red schoolhouse, winding through the park and down to the brick amphitheater. As the sun sets, your lanterns will transform the park into a river of light, guiding the way to warmth and celebration. The fire pit and marshmallows will help with the warmth part.

Workshops and Lantern Making

Get creative and craft your unique lantern. Find inspiration from this lantern-making tutorial or this video of the 2017 parade. Workshops are available at the Columbia Art Center on Wednesday, Dec. 9, and Saturday, Dec. 13, and at Indah Coffee on Sunday, Dec. 14. Speaking of Indah Coffee, the local coffee shop will be on hand to serve cocoa and treats along with Emerald’s Artistry offering face painting.

Whether you create a simple paper lantern or something more elaborate, every lantern adds to the parade’s magic. Join in on celebrating the winter solstice, enjoy a scenic stroll with friends + family, and embrace the gradual return of longer days.