Light is often a symbol of love, hope, warmth, and peace and is an integral part of our lives that we celebrate in different ways throughout the world. One common way to celebrate light is in the form of lantern festivals. Some celebrate light by releasing lanterns on a body of water, letting them fly up into the sky, or by simply decorating homes and streets with them.
From cultural and religious traditions like the Thailand Lantern Festivals, Diwali in India, Spring Lantern Festivals in Taiwan and China; to honoring the ocean in Japan; and to the sheer celebration of positive spirit, kindness, and respect for those who have passed, lantern festivals are truly a sight to behold.
1. Loy Krathong and Yi Peng, Thailand
Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are two lantern festivals celebrated in Thailand every year around November. Loy Krathong is the floating lantern festival while Yi Peng takes festivities to the skies with flying lanterns. Both celebrations create an incredible fairy tale like display and take place on the same day every year.
Loy Krathong is a traditional festival that pays homage to the Thai water goddess and Buddha. Celebrated during the full moon of the Thai calendar’s 12th lunar month, attendees release lotus-shaped floating lanterns onto bodies of water across Thailand.
Yi Peng, the sky lantern festival, is unique to the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. This city also happens to be the ancient capital of the former Lanna Kingdom. The grand moment of this celebration is the launching of khom loi lanterns which slowly float upwards into the night sky.
Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Sukhothai are the hot spots for the Thai lantern festivals. In 2021, Loy Krathong will be celebrated on November 19 while Yi Peng will take place on November 19-20.
2. Full Moon Lantern Festival, Vietnam
This Vietnamese Lantern Festival takes place every month on the 14th day of the lunar calendar (the full moon night) in Hoi An. Steeped in Buddhist traditions, the Vietnamese believe that releasing lanterns under a full moon will bring them health, wealth, and happiness.
To celebrate, the entire city shuts off the electricity at 8 pm and allows the streets to be illuminated in the magical beauty of lantern lights. Both locals and visitors can get together to release the small paper lanterns onto the river. As a bonus, visitors can even glide on-board a traditional canoe for mesmerizing views of the lanterns on the water and hung up all around the city.
3. Diwali, India
Celebrated during the Hindu month of Kartika (October or November) by Hindus all over the world, Diwali is the quintessential Indian festival of lights symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. During the festivities, Indian families perform poojas (rituals) for health, wealth, and happiness.
Diwali is often called the Festival of Light and to celebrate, clay oil lamps called diyas are lit at night and placed in homes and streets around the country. People also light fairy lights in windows and burst fireworks in celebration.
If you visit India during Diwali, the best way to experience all the cultural aspects of the festival is to celebrate with a local Indian family. Another great option would be to get your tour guide to take you on a stroll through the beautifully illuminated Diwali markets and try some traditional sweets while you’re there.
In 2022, Diwali will take place on October 24th.
4. Pingxi Lantern Festival, Taiwan
Every year, thousands of people congregate in the mountainside village of Pingxi for its annual lantern festival on the last day of the Chinese New Year.
The Pingxi Lantern Festival dates more than 100 years and is a form of ancestor worship. During the celebrations, participants write their wishes with a calligraphy pen on paper lanterns and release them into the night sky in the hopes that their prayers will be answered by their ancestors.
Sky lanterns in Taiwan are only allowed to be released in Pingxi because the local geography and mountains prevent the lanterns from flying too high. Once you arrive in the town, you’ll find hundreds of lantern shops selling different types and colors of lanterns to represent different wishes.
The next Pingxi Lantern Festival will take place on February 16, 2022.
5. Spring Lantern Festival, China
The Chinese Spring Lantern Festival dates back more than 2,000 years and is celebrated to mark the last day of the Chinese New Year. Celebrated nationwide, it also marks the first full moon night in the Chinese lunar calendar.
Activities for travelers include lighting lanterns, solving riddles written on lanterns, eating tangyuan, and watching lion dance. Although in China, the lanterns are not released into the night sky, cities hang yellow and red glowing lanterns everywhere making for a beautiful show of lights.
The best places to experience this cultural festival are at the Qinhuai International Lantern Festival in Nanjing, the Shanghai Yuyuan Lantern Festival, and the Guangzhou Yuexiu Park Lantern Fair.
The next Spring Lantern Festival will take place on February 15, 2022.
6. Lantern Festival, Hawaii
The Hawaiian Lantern Floating Festival is a peaceful ceremony meant to pay tribute to the dearly departed on Memorial Day. Held annually on May 27, this event at Ala Moana Beach unites thousands of people who come together to celebrate harmony amid adversity.
This celebration is open for all to participate in and observe at no cost. The ceremony begins with the blowing the Hawaiian conch shell, followed by musical performances like the taiko drums and the Ka Lei Moana hula performance.
Once the ceremony has ended, lanterns inscribed with personal messages are released onto the Hawaiian waters by participants in an act of remembrance and kindness.
7. St. Johns Night, Poland
St. John’s Night is a festival celebrating summer solstice which takes place on the longest day and shortest night of the year in Poland. Though visitors can witness this beautiful festival throughout the country, the largest event takes place in the city of Poznan.
Attendees partake in various activities including jumping over bonfires, girls and young ladies releasing their weaved flower wreaths with a lit candle to float on the water, and people wearing folk costumes while drinking and dancing to the music. This celebration is a fun and raucous occasion.
At the end of the celebrations, thousands of lanterns are released complete with firework displays illuminating the June sky.
8. Marine Day Lantern Festival, Tokyo
A national holiday in Japan, Marine Day is observed on the third Monday of July. The Marine Day Lantern Festival is celebrated for two days on Tokyo’s Odaiba Beach with the purpose of honoring the ocean and everything it gives us.
This popular summertime activity sees lots of people flock to the beach to light thousands of paper lanterns and set them on the beachfront. The lanterns are many different colors and are often used to make interesting designs.
Visitors can not only light lanterns, but also enjoy the music, delicious grilled seafood, and the spectacular view of the famous Rainbow Bridge and traditional longboats from the shore.
9. Rise Lantern Festival, Las Vegas
An eco-friendly celebration of love, hope, and prayer, the Rise Lantern Festival is held annually in the Mojave desert of Nevada. This festival was inspired by the flying lantern festivals like those that take place in Thailand and Taiwan and has taken that idea to create a spiritual celebration in the United States.
During the celebration, travelers will enjoy an afternoon of live music and release lanterns with individual messages written on them when night falls. This event is not specific to one religion or belief system and is open to everyone of all faiths who will make the ceremony special through their personal ideas on what releasing a lantern means to them.
10. Sky Lantern Festival and Water Lantern Festival, Utah
Utah’s Salt Lake City hosts the Sky Lantern Festival and Water Lantern Festival which are were inspired by Loy Krathong and Yi Peng in Thailand. This festival is meant to be a peaceful and memorable event for family, friends, and the wider community.
Participants will get to take part in the lantern release and also get to write messages on the completely eco-friendly lanterns as a form of making a wish.
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