When I saw this photo, the first thing that came to mind was the lantern scene in the movie Tangled (2010) where the main characters, Flynn and Rapunzel, are on a boat watching the lanterns float into the sky on Rapunzel’s birthday. From this, I began to think of what is arguably the most beautiful festival in the world (maybe other than Holi), which is the Lantern Festival.
The Lantern Festival takes place on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year, which is normally in late February or early March. This year the Lantern Festival will take place on March 5th. The Chinese tradition is officially called the Shangyuan Festival. This festival equates to our Valentine’s Day mixed with our New Years, it is definitely a holiday much more worth celebration. This is because rather than tacky cupids and pink hearts, China celebrates with the warm romantic glow of their lanterns. Personally, I find the latter of the two much more romantic, yet it’s not solely a romantic occasion. It’s a time of all different types of love, of community.
Although I’ve never experienced this festival, I love everything about it. The lanterns are made of paper with little riddles inscribed on each for the children who participate it the festival. When the lanterns are lit, they’re gently lifted into the sky. It makes all of China look magical. It’s a literal representation of what we North Americans try and accomplish with New Years. Letting go of the lanterns, is to let go of past mistakes and your past self. It symbolizes new beginnings a whole lot better than a ball dropping does. Not that there’s anything wrong with our practices, I love them. I just feel that the Lantern Festival incorporates our own holiday practices, yet executes them in a way far more magical and artistic than we do. Of course, I may just have this point of view because this festival is so foreign to what I’m used to.
I dream of visiting China for the Lantern Festival at least once before I die. I think that once is all I would need. It would be so special to experience this just once because it’s rarity would make it much more incredible. Even though I would not understand the riddle written on my lantern or the other people around me that’s okay, I know that I’d feel like I belonged. How could I not? When you’re standing with thousands of people, all performing the same ritual that’s existed for millennia it’s near impossible to not to feel interconnected with everyone. I believe that community strives when you take a moment, or a particular day, to come together and become something bigger than yourself.