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Lantern festivals around the world are defined by the illumination of various things, from rice paper floaters and flickering luminaries to grounded candlelit objects. Each festival has a deeper meaning, whether religious or just cultural tradition. But simultaneously, lantern festivals are centered around peace and hope. You can see one lantern event, but you haven’t seen them all. Each has its own ambiance and life, many of which would be the experience of a lifetime. These are the best lantern festivals in the world.
Diwali – The Festival of Lights in India takes place in the fall and is celebrated for four days. Being likely the biggest holiday in the country, it can be compared to the importance of Christmas in the United States. Clay lanterns dot the walkways, people give each other gifts, and demons are warded off by burning symbolic figures.
St. John’s Night, aka Noc Kupaly, goes down in Poznan, Poland, where the shortest night of the year is celebrated in June. Fertility and well wishes are amongst the focuses, while folks jump through herbed fires and send flaming wreaths off in the water—that’s some extreme stuff. But all comes to a halt when reportedly 8,000 lanterns float towards the night’s stars.
Tokyo’s Marine Day Lantern Festival pays tribute to the beautiful oceans by lighting up Odaiba Beach Front Park. Paper bag lanterns are accumulatively shaped into flowers and other lovely designs, which can be seen from far away. Boats sail by in the distance, and a few food vendors offer snacks for the occasion.
Two lantern festivals turn Thailand into a twinkling wonderland, typically around November. Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and Bangkok celebrate Loy Krathong by sending off floating lotus baskets full of candles into the waters. Yi Peng is more prevalent in the north, and it takes place on the same day as the latter. However, sky lanterns define this event, and they are constructed of bamboo and rice paper.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get more lit in Las Vegas, The Rise Lantern Festival happens in October. Musical entertainment leads up to the moment when everyone lights their lantern, with individual written messages, into the Nevada sky. While completely biodegradable, a crew still collects the floating lights after the festivities.
Salt Lake City hosts a spectacular Sky Lantern Festival in May with music, food, and the big moment of the lantern release. The Salt Lake City/Ogden Water Lantern Festival features countless luminaries gliding across the water, of course. The peaceful gathering will focus on positivity, togetherness, community, and reflection. The lanterns are 100% eco-friendly, and attendees get to adorn them with messages.
Floating Lantern Festival in Washington D.C. is made a reality by the same group that is responsible for the Salt Lake City/Ogden event. So guests will do the same by decorating beautiful, sustainably constructed luminaries that will embody a message of hope and peace—something we could all use a little more of these days.
You don’t have too much time constraint if you want to visit Vietnam’s Hoi An Lantern Festival, as it takes place during the full moon each month. Rather than lanterns being sent into the sky, artist-designed versions hang throughout the town and add ambient light via candles. Some float along the peaceful river and guests can even hop aboard a sampan, or traditional canoe, for the most incredible vantage point for views.
The Pingxi Lantern Festival takes place outside of Taipei, Taiwan, and is one of the most magical things your eyes may ever witness. Hundreds of lanterns are inscribed via calligraphy pen with personal wishes, then sent up into the sky. While the event is in February, lantern shops in Pingxi allow visitors to make a lantern at any time of the year, as this is the only place that allows this. Locals collect debris after it lands, and they can exchange them for goods like toilet paper and such.
China’s Spring Lantern Festival actually takes place in February to celebrate the end of the Chinese New Year. Celebrated across the country, it’s an important national event that is a part of the culture. From Shanghai to Guangzhou, official festivals feature hanging lanterns that illuminate the whole city, to ones that are inscribed with messages and sent floating into the sky. Sweet dumplings filled with delicious ingredients like sesame and rose are a staple treat, and lion dances parade through the streets.