Taiwan Lantern Festival

Taiwan Lantern Festival
Photo: taiwan.net.tw
The Lantern Festival is a Chinese festival that concludes the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. Celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month in the Chinese calendar, it falls in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. The Taiwan Lantern Festival is a version of the Chinese Lantern Festival officially hosted by the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications of Taiwan.

The roots of the Chinese Lantern Festival trace back more than 2000 years ago. It is believed to have been popularized by Emperor Ming of Han who supported the spread of Buddhism in China. The Emperor noticed that Buddhist monks would light lanterns in temples on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, and ordered the imperial palace, all temples and households to do the same. Over the years, it has become a folk custom rather than a religious ceremony.

In Taiwan, the Tourism Bureau organized the first official event to celebrate the Lantern Festival in 1990. The main goal of the festival was to promote traditional customs and folklore. Originally held at the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, the festival began to tour the country in 2001. Since then, it has been held in a new city every year.

During the Taiwan Lantern Festival, thousands of paper lanterns are launched into the night sky. About two months before the festival, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau officially unveils the main lantern and the hand-held lantern of the festival. They are specially designed to represent the symbol of the new year according to the traditional Chinese zodiac.

The main lantern isn’t supposed to be launched. It’s an art object that symbolizes the spirit of the festival. For example, the 2018 main lantern was a 21 meter high installation featuring LED lights and 4D visual effects. The main lantern has theme music that plays during performances at the festival. The hand-held lanterns are placed at temples and carried by children during the festival.

Alongside the main event held in whichever city has been chosen by the Tourism Bureau, various activities take place all over Taiwan. One of the most famous Lantern Festival celebrations is held in Pingxi District of Taipei. People write their wishes on sky lanterns or on small pieces of paper attached to lanterns and release them to the sky, hoping that their wishes will come true.

In Yanshui District in Tainan, the famous Beehive Fireworks Festival is held on the same day. The two events are known collectively as “Fireworks in the South, Sky Lanterns in the North”.

Taiwan Lantern Festival



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