“Where are the lanterns?” I asked.
“These are the lanterns,” my friend said, pointing at the lit-up parade floats that littered the park.
“Huh? These are parade floats.”
“No, they are lanterns.”
Clearly, he and I had different opinions as to what lanterns are. Or maybe it was my cultural expectation that differed. In Thailand, they have Loy Kratong, a lantern festival that’s sort of like Thailand’s version of Valentine’s Day. Moreover, every month during the full moon, people light paper lanterns and watch them float off into the sky. It’s a sign of good luck.
I figured there would be people lighting lanterns off into the sky as a sign of good luck and fortune. Instead, I got parade floats….and they were better than any lantern I ever say.
The Taipei Lantern Festival is an annual tradition that commemorates the first lunar month of the new Chinese year and all the lanterns (floats) were about the year’s animal. Wandering around the grounds, it was interesting to see the floats. Some were commissioned by businesses, and others were done by schools or private individuals, but all were fun to look at.
The history of this event goes back centuries. During the Qing Dynasty, remote villages were difficult to control and protect. To protect themselves, villagers sometimes hid in the mountains after the winter solstice when the final harvest was complete to avoid bandits and thieves. After the winter passed, the men (who had stayed in the village) would release lanterns to signify it was saf for the others to return. This practice eventually evolved into the festival it is today.
In the 1980s, as the festival lost popularity, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau decided to gather all the light displays in one spot to create awareness to for the festival – and boost the event’s stature and tourism.
There were a lot of interesting floats, from farm scenes to a panda wedding. Take a look for yourself:
How to attend the Taiwan Lantern Festival
The dates and location for the Taiwan Lantern Festival change every year based on the Chinese New Year. The theme also changes each year to reflect the neighborhood in which the festival is held. It’s a good idea to follow along with the Taiwan Lantern Festival website for details closer to festival time. There are also free shuttle buses that run to and from the site from various points around the city. You do not need to purchase a ticket to attend the Festival — it’s free! The festival also lasts a few weeks. You’ll also find tons of food sellers around the grounds too so you’ll never go hungry!
For more ideas on what to do in Taiwan, check out these posts:
- How to Spend Your Time in Taiwan
- What to Do in Taipei
- See One of the Most Impressive Buildings in the World
Book Your Trip to Taiwan: Logistical Tips and Tricks
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