Milo may have replaced the mulled wine but the warm glow of fire pits against the backdrop of red trees set the stage for a memorable mini-Solstice at Wodonga Senior Secondary College.
More than 900 students and staff gathered in shared solidarity on Wednesday to shine their own light into the darkness of mental illness and pain of suicide.
With guest speakers, music by the school band, support agency headspace on site, and a sea of students dressed in red, the event embraced the spirit of the upcoming Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice on June 21, according to VCAL teacher Jess Kellahan.
Ms Kellahan said COVID-19 and the recent devastating loss of student Joe Pitman had prompted the decision to hold a special event on school grounds.
"Of the many years the college has supported the annual Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice, this year it was important have such an event within our own school community," she said.
"This year we felt it was particularly important for students (and staff) to be able to come together in solidarity, for their feelings to be listened to and acknowledged and to allow for those discussions around mental health, suicide and stigma."
Headspace Albury-Wodonga came on board to offer support and resources.
Students had "embraced" the mini-Solstice with at least 60 young people directly involved in production, according to Ms Kellahan.
"It's been so beautiful and these kids are melting my heart," she said after dress rehearsal on Tuesday.
"They've been researching appropriate music to play while building and construction students laser cut and painted 10 red trees, which will also be used for the event at Albury's QEII Square.
"We had 200 kilograms of firewood delivered for the fire pits and Wodonga Urban Fire Brigade kindly offered to be on hand so we could have them."
And the Solstice messages of love, loss and support, hand-written on tags gently fluttering from the red trees, will linger on after the longest night of the year draws to a close on June 21.
- If you are a young person who needs help, reach out to headspace (1300 332 022) or Lifeline (13 11 14).