About Chinese Lantern Festivals and the inaugural Chinese Lantern & Folk Festival in Fountain Hills, Arizona
The Lantern Festival is a traditional Chinese festival. It has been celebrated for over 2000 years on the 15th lunar day of the first lunar month. It marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations. In the evening, Chinese lanterns are hung in the streets. People march through the streets carrying the lanterns. Lanterns are lit in temples.
Riddles are part of traditional Chinese lantern festivals. Lantern owners write riddles on pieces of paper and attach them to their lanterns. Visitors with solutions to the riddles take the riddle to the owners and receive gifts. Rice dumplings, a glutinous rice stuffed with sweet filing, are eaten. During the day, performances may include lion dancers, drummers, stilt walkers, and dragon lantern dancers.
The Fountain Hills Chinese Lantern & Folk Festival was located in Fountain Park, a recreation area in the town centre built around a 29 acre effluent lake.
Chinese lanterns can be made from a variety of materials. The frame may be of wood, bamboo, steel wire, or rattan; the shades of paper, silk, or nylon. Traditionally the source of light inside the lantern was a candle. Today, it is more likely to be a bulb.
The waterproof lanterns at the Fountain Hills festival, made to radiate light at night, started to light up at dusk, around six. The lanterns are lit with bulbs, not fire.
I attended the festival as part of a group from the Taoist Tai Chi Society doing tai chi demonstrations. Other performances and demonstrations at the festival included lion dancing, Kung Fu, and puppets.
I attended the festival late in the afternoon on a cool, dreary, overcast weekday. Groups were sparse. Perhaps later evening and weekends drew more crowds. The festival is described as an inaugural event, implying it will become a yearly event. I don’t know what the fate of the festival will be if overall attendance rates are low.
Chinese lanterns are symbols of enlightenment and blessing. The lanterns are typically red with gold trim. In Chinese culture red symbolizes good fortune and joy. Gold symbolizes wealth. Lantern festivals send blessings of harmony, order, and unity for the rest of the year, and symbolize the wish for a brighter future.
Have you been to a lantern festival?