The Lantern Festival is a Chinese cultural tradition which dates back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25) and is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar.
According to the Gregorian calendar, used in most of the world since 1582, it usually takes place in February or even early March and marks the final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Established in 1978, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau has been organizing the event each year since 1990 with both private and governmental partners at the local level.
Unfortunately, in accordance with the current COVID-19 epidemic prevention plan, the 2021 edition was cancelled after Premier Su Tseng-chang on January 19th hosted a meeting with professionals from the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and the authorities in Hsinchu, Taiwan’s 7th largest city.
Nevertheless, Hsinchu City will receive full support from the central government to present an alternative time schedule and carry out subsequent implementation efforts and measures.
The contributing designers of these big and small masterpieces, historically made from bamboo, wood, rattan or wire for the frame, will get a chance to complete their amazing works and display them when the timing is right, which most likely will be soon.
On the occasion there are many activities all over the island, including the notorious beehive fireworks at Yanshuei District in Tainan, Taiwan’s old capital, which this year will go ahead on a smaller scale.
Those who prefer less noisy options would be fascinated by the beauty of thousands of sky lanterns lit over Pingxi district in New Taipei City, a custom that dates back to the Qing-Dynasty (1644-1911), though this year it has also fallen victim to the coronavirus.
At the time, Pingxi was an affluent village threatened by bandits which operated in that rather remote area, especially in winter. Villagers often took to the mountains to evade those robbers.
When the worst had passed, sky lanterns were flown to signal that it was safe for the inhabitants of Pingxi to return home and live a normal life again.
Nowadays people write all kinds of wishes and sometimes add images on these plain lanterns, made from oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame, hoping that their expectations become true with help from above.
I can’t exactly remember which year I did it myself, together with my girlfriend. It was also the first time that we tried a Minsu, the Taiwanese version of the good old Western B&B.
The accommodation wasn’t anything special at all and looked more like the host had used any available furniture to decorate the small room. A dripping tap outside didn’t help either, but I had brought my ear plugs!
However, to see the lantern disappear into the night was an unforgettable experience and the service offered by a friendly local didn’t break the bank either!
Mass tourism hasn’t reached Formosa yet, so those interested should hurry up to enjoy the special magic of the Taiwan Lantern Festival once this seemingly endless nightmare is finally over!