A renowned festival of Taiwan, Lantern Festival, will be held from February 11 to 19, 2017. Like Indians, the Taiwanese also celebrate festivals with fervor and festivities and it’s considered the best time for family and friends to get together and celebrate.
The festival is held across Taiwan in different cities every year like Taipei, Kaohsiung, Pingxi and Yenshui.
The Taipei Lantern Festival is held for several days at the Taipei Expo Park, reaching its peak on the day of the Lantern Festival itself. There are many traditional lanterns, electromechanical lantern displays, and large themed lanterns sponsored and designed by different companies.
The Kaohsiung Lantern Festival is held along the Love River. During the festival period, both sides of the river as well as Wufu Rd, Heping Rd, Guangzhou St, and other thoroughfares have lantern exhibitions. There are also musical performances.
The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is one of the most colourful activities of the Lantern Festival. Pingxi is a remote hillside town. In the past, those who worked or farmed in the mountains faced the risk of being robbed or killed, and they used lanterns to inform their families they were safe. The lanterns do not function as signals anymore, but are now used as symbols of peace and good fortune.
The Lantern Festival is an ancient Chinese tradition that dates back more than 2,000-years. The origin of the festival lies in the festive activities of agricultural people celebrating the lengthening of daylight hours and the coming of spring after the New Year. The festival was started by an emperor of the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), who was a devout Buddhist and who ordered his people to display lights on the 15th night of the first month of the lunar year to pay respects to Buddha. It is believed that holding torches or lanterns on this night makes it easier to see deities descending from heaven to give blessings to the earth.
During the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 AD), the emperors would celebrate the festival by ordering hundreds of women to sing and dance with lanterns in the brightly lit plaza. These festive activities gradually spread to the common people and developed into a popular festival, which is also called the Little New Year.
In 1990, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau held the first Taipei Lantern Festival. Every year a gigantic lantern is installed in the middle of the plaza of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The lantern installation is followed by performances like laser lights, music and sculptural arts. On the four sides of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, smaller lantern installations depict folklore and historical events. Visitors can also find live folk performances such as lion and dragon dances, acrobatic acts, folk art skits, mock battles, and booths that demonstrate and sell traditional handicrafts such as fan painting, lantern making, dough sculpture, candy-figure blowing, paper cutting, Chinese knot work, and snacks and sweets. During the festival period, a tunnel of lights is put up on the roads of Taipei, dressing up the whole city with lights.