In 1990 I had the pleasure of experiencing a Gyatso Delek Children's Day celebration for the first time. The gathering was hosted at the Hannons' residence, on a grey and windy Sunday afternoon. The grassy field at the back of the house, studded with large rocks and pine trees, was shrouded in a light mist. A Shambhala flag flew over the property.
The children began by making crowns out of gold cardboard, sparkles, satin, and jewels, while the adults sipped homemade beer and socialized. After a sumptuous buffet lunch, Paul Hannon gathered the children into the living room for a reading of the Children's Day story. The children were attentive, embelleshing the descriptions of the palace, the horses, the king, and the queen with mischievous "ooo's" and "ahhh's." As the story came to an end, the familiar chords of the Shambhala anthem rose through the stereo speakers.
Then, in a climactic moment, the king and queen in person entered through the front door. The younger children, especially, were visibly awe-struck. The queen (Joan Anderson Pearson) wore a gold eye mask, face paint, and a glittering dress. The king (Dennis Pearson) waved a staff, announcing that the children should come forward to receive a golden "belt of confidence" from the queen.
Soon bellows from a conch could be heard from the back of the house. The children (and adults!) watched out the dining room windows as the king blew the conch, dancing and leaping from rock to rock, his cape flapping in the wind. He called the children to come outside, where he discovered a bright blue fish-pinata hanging from the branch of a pine tree, its coloured tail streamers flying horizontally behind. The children lined up, from smallest to largest, and each had a turn trying to hit the pinata with a long stick. When a solid whack finally opened the fish's belly and its bounty of candy rained down, every child instantly fell in a heap on top.
Back inside, children and adults joined together to sing the anthem, and the king and queen departed out the front door and into the mist.
The day's rituals were a healthy mixture of tradition and improvisation, of sacredness and humour. I left feeling satisfied, as after having enjoyed a good meal through every course. The children were tired, their pockets stuffed with candies, their crowns a little tattered, a belt of confidence still around their waists as a reminder of the day's events.