Taiwan Lantern Festival - Light Up Your Life

February 22 - March 6

Living in Taiwan this year has led me to having many learning experiences. I expected to learn some of the langue and about their food and maybe some basic customs, but what you don't realize until you are living someplace completely new, is that EVERYTHING is new to you! One of the most fun things to learn about is the Taiwanese holidays because none of their holidays are the same as what we celebrate in the United States of much of the western world whose holidays are largely Christian based. 

I wrote an article earlier about Chinese New Year that fell in early February this year, but later I learned there was a 2nd holiday signaling the end of the new year 15 days after it began; Lantern Festival. 

From what I've learned and researched this holiday has always been present, but it's only been in the last 25 or 30 years that the tourism bureau began printing and organizing a national event corresponding to the holiday. 

The thought behind the holiday is that people light paper lanterns with their hopes and wishes for the new year and release them to the sky hoping that their lanterns reach the gods who grant them a safe and productive year ahead. The present day lantern festival has turned into a huge national festival that travels around the country to a new county each year displaying lanterns from local artist & school children, showcasing performances from local groups, and presenting a vast array of local food and treats for out of town guests to sample. 

This years festival was held in Tayoun (outside of Taipei) only a quick 20 minute High Speed Rail ride from my house {needless to say I visited 3 times since it was so close!} and lasted 2 weeks from February 22 to March 6. This year, on the Chinese calendar, is the year of the monkey so tons of the lanterns were monkey themed (sadly none of my monkey friends from Kaohsiung were there) but the lanterns didn't stop there! If you can think of a popular kids cartoon; it had a lantern. If you can think of a cutesy animal; it had a lantern. An island surrounding Taiwan; lantern. Surrounding Asian countries; lantern. Sports, teams, and players; lantern, lantern, and lantern. Seriously guys, they were never ending and some were downright huge!

The main lantern was a multicolored ginormous monkey who every 30 minutes would light up, play music, and spin for everyone to see (not that it needed help there was no missing this neon colored fellow!). There was one section devoted to religious lanterns and paraphernalia, another to other island and counties of Taiwan, and still another reserves to elementary children's classroom creation. Even better yet was the 4 giant areas devoted to food stands and vendors making sure everyone's tummies were full and the performances that took place each night of the 2 week event!

Trip 1 - Tina, Tara and I headed up after school for dinner and because of the day's rain it was empty and perfect for a quick walk through! Trip 2 - Tina and I went up again on Saturday and though it was crowded it was beautiful outside and it didn't compare to the record breaking crowds on Sunday, but being the middle of the day on a weekend, we were able to watch many different performances! Trip 3 - Phil and I went a week later on Sunday for the last day and the closing ceremony shows they had lined up!

Were 3 trips necessary? If you ask any Taiwanese person they'd say absolutely not...to the person who had never heard of the festival 6 months ago...most certainly!!

[Top left clockwise] Cutesie steam buns for sale, proof I actually went!, HUGE and delicious sausage buns, lotus flower lantern I was given,  [bottom] aboriginal dancers