December 9th, 2017, Newfoundland’s Port de Grave Harbour will light up in celebration of Christmas. It truly is a spectacular sight. The story of how it came to be such a popular tradition is pretty neat too!
The Story of the Annual Boat Lighting in Port de Grave, Newfoundland
How it all began!
In the fall of 1999 Port de Grave was selected to become the last port of call for the Viking Ship, the Islendingur, in the summer of 2000. A committee was formed which consisted of 35 people, it had two Co-Chairs Wayne Harbin and Joyce Morgan. Port de Grave would host a celebration like it never had seen before. That fall the Government of Newfoundland sponsored the Festival of Lights, where by any community that was willing to participate by lighting up their community for Christmas would receive a grant in the amount of $500.00, we decided “what a way to celebrate Christmas by lighting up the Harbour”, and so our story begins.
The years previous to that one lone fisherman Eric Lear would light up his fishing boat, so we thought what a wonderful idea to go to all the fishermen and ask them to participate in lighting up their boats. But we couldn’t do this alone, so we took our idea to the Port de Grave Harbour Authority and asked for their assistance, we than became partners in this annual tradition. The Islindingur Committee ceased existence once the celebrations were over, and our committee of 35 dwindled to about 6 people who took over the Harbour Days celebrations for the next 5 years, whereby a week of celebrations were held in the month of August.
Our very first boat lighting Friday, Dec. 10, 1999, we had 36 boats participate, it was such a magical night, I still remember as if it were yesterday. A perfect, flat calm night with the moon and stars shining brightly, there were a large number of people in attendance, there were speeches and singing from St. Luke’s and the Pentecostal Children’s Choirs. Hot chocolate was served and there was a visit from Santa Claus. Silent Night was being sung by everyone and the boats were being lit one by one, such an incredible feeling. Since that very first boat lighting, more fishermen and pleasure craft boat owners have been participating, with more lights and more decorations, some years we have had as many as 65 boats lit up. Due to some boats being sold, we average anywhere between 50 to 60 boats taking part. What an awesome sight when you hit the top of the Harbour Hills coming into Port de Grave! Every year thousands of people come to Port de Grave to view the lights, two years ago we had a Doctor and his wife fly in from Ontario just to see the boats being lit.
It has become a national event, Peter Mansbridge from CBC National News came and did the news from the Harbour Authority Building. Every year I take pictures of the boat lighting and post them on my website, I have had comments from around the world. In 2011 a picture of the harbour was featured on the Christmas Eve edition of the Globe and Mail, its made the cover of the fishermen’s magazine The Navigator, front page of the local paper and numerous other sites and papers. We even have our very own song “Christmas in Port de Grave” written and sung by the Singing Fisherman Wayne Morgan (Red).
A very special thank you go out to all our, Boat owners, Captains and Crews because without their generosity none of this would be possible. Each boat usually has from 3 to 4 thousand lights or more plus Christmas decorations, truly amazing!
Thankfully, the annual Boat Lighting and Carol Sing continues to this day and has become a major event in Newfoundland and Labrador. Along with the founding Chair Joyce Morgan and the Port de Grave Harbour Authority, we will be celebrating the 15th Annual Boat Lighting and Carol Sing on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. The Boat lighting has brought comfort to the sick, the lonely and the shut-ins. Seniors homes in the area bring residents by the bus load to see the lights, families come by the car load! We are so delighted and we would like you to add this to your Christmas list to come and visit us and we look forward to many more years of keeping this tradition going. The Boats are always lit up to and including Old Christmas Day, January 6th.
Photos from previous years can be found at www.jmorganphotgraphs.zenfolio.com. Videos can be found on YouTube by searching a Port de Grave Christmas Card. Like us on Facebook “Port de Grave Annual Boat Lighting”.
For more information you may contact Joyce at 709-680-1231 email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Bill at 709-786-8560 email: email@example.com