31 December 2011 by Chris Marais

Light a lantern for 2012

New Year’s Eve is grand time in Nieu Bethesda, when this quiet little village comes to life with singing, dancing and the Lantern Walk.

Tonight, being New Year’s Eve, the lights are going on all over the world.

Because of the time zone differences, islanders out there in Bora Bora and such are already suffering from hangovers while as I write, the pyro-whizzes are fixing the last Roman Candles onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge for that annual Ozzie Light-Up we see and admire on TV.

Man, if you’re lucky enough to be in New York’s Times Square or in the French Quarter of New Orleans over New Year’s Eve, prepare to be dazzled. It’s Southern Comfort and Jack Daniels and Big Neon and Zydeco Zing-Zing and good vibes all ‘round.

But if you’re really lucky tonight, you’ll find yourself in a tiny little Karoo village called Nieu Bethesda, deep in the Sneeuberg Mountains, waiting anxiously for the sun to go down and the lanterns to go up.

Take it from me: if you’re ever lucky enough to be in Nieu Bethesda on New Year’s Eve, that particular walk will fill you with all the hope and fortitude you will need for the year that begins tomorrow…

Normally, Nieu Bethesda is a 2-donkey village that occasionally erupts with jollity when a visiting musician has a show, or a busload of travellers arrives to traipse around the Owl House, that legendary display of Outsider art.

During a regular week day, you’ll pop in at the Karoo Lamb restaurant for breakfast and meet the local sculptor, a couple of wayward backpackers, a whole bunch of retirees, a writer working on his 1st novel and a whole pack of very sleepy dogs.

Tonight, ah, tonight, is a different story. There is not a bed to be had in Nieu Bethesda on New Year’s Eve. People have come from far and wide to join the local children at the Bethesda Arts Centre and make lanterns.

There will be singing, dancing, the ritual meat-feasting over open fires, the odd dram of Karoo Ale from the Sneeuberg Brewery – but first, there is the Lantern Walk. Everyone joins up in the darkness, hundreds of lanterns glowing, and the procession to the township begins.

Take it from me: if you’re ever lucky enough to be in Nieu Bethesda on New Year’s Eve, that particular walk will fill you with all the hope and fortitude you will need for the year that begins tomorrow…

Category: Culture & History, Events

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