Grotters, and the Blessing of the Waters

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What the heck are grotters, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell ya….

Last night, we all had a special treat.  We stayed out after it got dark!

After our delicious supper of pasta with bolognese sauce & steamed broccoli (I know, not terribly creative, but the kids love it), we hightailed it out the door to the beach and watched the Blessing of the Waters ceremony.
Blessing of the waters

From the Whitstable Oyster Festival website:

This traditional event, appeasing the cruel seas and giving thanks for its bounty, dates back to 1657. Everyone is welcome to join the procession of clergy and choristers for this very special, historic service, which is held annually as near as possible to the Feast Day of St James, patron saint of oystermen.

The ceremony consisted of the clergy from the local parish church leading prayers and saying a few words about the sea and its bounty and how we’re all thankful to God for the blessings, etc.  The clergy, a few local church choirs, and a small brass group all set up just on the inside of the sea wall (the whole beach is lined with sea walls to prevent flooding), and there were loudspeakers set up so that those assembled all along the beach could hear.

After a few prayers, the clergy, the mayor, and whoever wanted to follow, tramped down the long beach (it was very low tide) to the water to repeat the various prayers and actually bless the waters.  Then, they all tramped back up and sang a lovely modern hymn (Lord of the Sea and Skies, I think).  We enjoyed seeing this historic ceremony.  Whether or not one subscribes to a religion, it’s nice to take a moment to be thankful for whatever natural beauty and edible bounty one might have at one’s doorstep.  I can appreciate that.
Procession to the shore
More processing
Group at the shore
Returning from the water
Mayor of Whitstable
Brass band plays final hymn
Clergy beginning procession

This ceremony took place at about 7pm, and we spent the rest of our evening on the beach, waiting for the sun to go down so that we could enjoy the glow of the grotters.

The light was fantastic
Fishermens' huts in late day light
Boat shot in late-day light
More huts
Processed cockle shells
Sun's setting
Sunset with boat ramp in foreground
Very tired boad (note broken boom)

Charlie had a ball running around and climbing over the groynes.
Charlie goes to see what everybody's eating

Flora and mama sat on a towel watching the sunset, and Flora collected rocks and shells (of course).
Flora shows momma the sunset

It was a pretty great sunset
Kids playing at dusk
Charlie stomps in the twilight

And now, the grotters.
Lone grotter

Look what I found about grotters online:

GROTTO or GROTTER DAY (c. 25 July) was an observance in Chelsea, Mitcham and on the Old Kent Road (the pilgrim road to Canterbury) which was related to the pilgrimages to St. James of Compostela. Internally lit grottos of shells and flowers on the roadside symbolised the saint’s subterranean birthplace and passers-by were urged to contribute. The custom survived until World War II.

Well, this custom still survives in Whitstable! And it’s a very cool custom. They look pretty interesting by daylight:
Oyster-shell

But look at what happens to them at night….
Neato!
Grotters are lit!
Better lighting for grotters now

A massive one that you can walk inside!
Super-sized grotter

And creative shapes.
Creative shapes
Completely enclosed

And a great time was definitely had by all.

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2 Responses to Grotters, and the Blessing of the Waters

  1. Oh, so beautiful!!! Yes, I am a wee bit envious. How fortunate are you all to have these wonderful experiences, and how smart and clever to get out there and take advantage of everything the area has to offer.

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