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A Festival of Lights

February 6th, 2012

Today, in celebration of the end of the Spring Festival, the people of China gathered to participate in the annual Lantern Festival (also known as “Yuanxiao,” 元宵節).

The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar year in the Chinese calendar, the last day of the lunisolar Chinese New Year celebration. During the Lantern Festival, children head to the temples at night carrying paper lanterns and solving riddles.

There are many beliefs surrounding the origins of the Lantern Festival, however, it is widely understood to have something to do with celebrating and cultivating positive relationships between people, families, nature, and the higher beings that were believed to be responsible for bringing or returning the light each year.

In Taiwan, the annual event is hosted by the Tourism Bureau at different locations across the island, and this year the honour was had by the Changhua Lukang Township ( 鹿港鎮). The 23 annual festival is expected to draw over five million visitors to the area.

As this year’s festival celebrates the Year of the Dragon (according to the Chinese zodiac calendar), one of the main attractions is a 21 metre dragon-shaped lantern lit by state-of-the-art LED lights, which seems to float on moving clouds. The dragon, a symbol of the emperor of China, today remains one of the most auspicious symbols and is associated with power, strength, and good luck.

In addition to the 21 metre dragon lantern, nine golden-dragon lanterns were unveiled today at Lugang Old Street near the Tienhou Temple, and will remain on display for the entire 14-day period.

Also present for the festivities, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, along with a team of their friends from Tokyo Disney, joined a parade to kick off the festival that marched along the streets of Lukang, and added an international touch to the celebrations. In its first appearance overseas, a specially-designed float from Tokyo Disneyland called the “Dream Bus” passed through the centre of Lugang carrying the Disney crew.

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