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Storytellers’ tales capture spirit of rebirth, renewal

Tales of winter and narratives with a seasonal or spiritual focus are featured in “Stories for the Return of the Light,” a free performance for people of all ages with the Bellingham Storytellers Guild at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, in the Fireplace Room of Fairhaven Library, 1117 12th St.

“It’s a way to connect everyone together,” said the guild’s Doug Banner, who said six to nine storytellers will weave tales for about 90 minutes. “We have a group of people ... with close to 200 years of storytelling experience and a range of ages – 6, 9, 11 and older.”

Prior to the story event is a free workshop on storytelling from 6 to 7 p.m. Anyone is welcome to ask questions and seek advice or suggestions.

“We talk about different techniques and then people learn and practice their stories,” Banner said.

Because of the Christmas season, stories naturally may have a spiritual element, but Banner said they aren’t overtly religious in nature. Some stories have Native American or African origins, he said.

“We try to bring the flavor of different cultures, to each theme,” he said, to help people understand Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays.

“That’s really a valuable way to build community,” he said. “We try to honor culture without appropriating culture.”

Banner said he might tell classic tale “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey,” the story of a woodcarver whose wife and children die of scarlet fever. He’s embittered by their deaths and becomes a hardened, tormented soul, but softens when he carves a replacement figurine for a damaged Nativity scene.

“He lets a little boy sit and watch as he carves, and he brings the spirit of the piece to life,” Banner said. “He transfers back into a happy and joyous spirit again. It’s a great story; there’s lots of heart in it. It’s timed tightly with the coming of the winter solstice and the ponderously slow return of the sun.”