Floating lanterns have been in use for way longer than you’d expect. As far as we know, they were first used in China in 25-220 CE by the Eastern Han Dynasty. Back then, they did more than just decorating the sky with beautiful lights. and were also used by the military to send signals and messages. Nowadays, they are used in various festivals across Asia. Here are a few of them.
Full Moon Lantern Festival in Hoi An, Vietnam
Just as its name suggests, the Full Moon Festival in Vietnam takes place every full moon. This means that the dates of celebration are determined by the lunar calendar rather than the gregorian calendar. This festival is rooted in the Buddhist tradition, which says that the full moon is ideal for meditation, reflection, and connection with dead ancestors. During the festival, the city of Hoi An turns off all the lights and let the lanterns do their thing. Visitors are welcome to take part in the festivities and send their own lanterns sailing on the local river.
Loi Krathong in Thailand
The lanterns at the Loi Krathong Festival are a little more elaborate than paper bags with candles in them. The traditional Krathong lanterns are made of banana leaves that hold several candles as well as incense. This whole structure is being released on a river or another body of water rather than into the sky. Just like the Full Moon Festival in Vietnam, this one also takes place during the full moon, but only once a year — on the last full moon of the Thai calendar. While the festival is held nationwide, the best place to celebrate would be in the capital of Bangkok.
Spring Lantern Festival in China
Perhaps the most famous lantern festival in the world, the Spring Lantern Festival in China has been celebrated annually for about 2,000 years. The original festivities were ordered by the Eastern Han Dynasty emperor. His instructions were that everyone, including temples and palaces, light lanterns on the first full moon of the Chinese year in Buddha’s honor. Nowadays, the festival celebrates families, the end of the Chinese New Year, and the beginning of spring. Other than releasing lanterns into the sky, the nationwide customs include traditional lion-dance performances, riddles, and festive dumplings called tangyuan.
Pingxi Lantern Festival in Pingxi District, Taiwan
The Pingxi District in Taiwan is located on a mountain range not far from Taipei. Once a year, on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, the district lights up with numerous lanterns celebrating the local lantern festival. But those aren’t ordinary lanterns. People write their prayers and wishes on the huge paper lanterns before releasing them into the air. The biggest festival events are held in the local villages of Jington and Shifen.