The Taiwan Lantern Festival, also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival, is the first major event after the Lunar New Year in Taiwan. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The Lantern Festival, also known as “Little New Year,” marks the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations. This year, the festival falls on February 11.
The practice of displaying lanterns originated from the early Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220 ). In ancient times, people made lanterns with flashing lights and in a variety of shapes and sizes to celebrate peace and prosperity. Red lanterns were hung during the festival to create a festive atmosphere and as a symbol of reunion. People also ate yuanxiao (ball-shaped dumplings) during the festival as a symbol of reunion, harmony, and happiness.
To attract visitors and to raise the international profile of Taiwan through cultural activities, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau designated the Lantern Festival as Tourism Day in 1978, and has held the event annually ever since. Over the years, the festival has gained in popularity, both at home and abroad. The U.S. Discovery Channel’s series “Fantastic Festivals of the World” even selected it as one of the best festivals in the world.
Please watch this video of the 2017 Taiwan Lantern Festival:
This year, the festival celebrated the “Year of the Rooster,” and was sponsored by the Tourism Bureau and hosted by the Yunlin County government in southern Taiwan on February 11-19. Besides the main rooster lantern, the three major themes of the event were: earth-friendly, multicultural, and lantern hometown.
There were also two 3-meter-tall puppet lanterns in the shape of popular characters from a Taiwanese puppet show, plus thousands of other large lanterns on display. Visitors could explore the festival with handheld lanterns, enjoy live performances, and experience the spectacular scene created with thousands of glamorous lanterns.
In addition to the Taiwan Lantern Festival, the 2017 Taipei Lantern Festival, sponsored by the Taipei City Government, was held in downtown Taipei City on February 4-17. It featured the glorious history and stories of Taipei City’s western area.
The Lantern Display Zone was divided into seven major areas, including the Main Display Area; the Light Sculpture Area, which featured light shows; the Landscape Creativity Area, which featured the five good omen roosters; the Universiade Interactive Area, which promoted the upcoming World University Games in Taipei; the Blessing Lantern Area, which delivered the well-wishes of citizens during the holidays; the Freestyle Creativity Area, which showed the magic of lighting technology; the Student Creativity Area, which displayed lanterns created by students; and the Friendly Exchange Area, which showed special lanterns sponsored by enterprises and foreign representative offices in Taiwan.
Please watch this video of the 2017 Taipei Lantern Festival:
Additionally, people across Taiwan celebrated the festive occasion by holding various lantern displays and other related activities. In Yehliu, a small fishing harbor in the northeast Taiwan, the Yehliu Harbor Purification Festival was held to pay respect to local deities that protect fishermen and coastal residents. During the ritual, statues of the deities were placed on sedan chairs and carried by four strong men around the fishing village. Later, the four men jumped into the harbor along with the statues and swam to the opposite side of the harbor, symbolizing the driving away of evil spirits lurking in the bottom of the harbor.
At Yenshui, a small township in southern Taiwan, the Yenshui Fireworks Festival was held. The traditional festival features the discharge of firecrackers and bottle rockets while a local deity in a sedan chair tours the township. Participants wore layers of protective clothing while fireworks shot out from beehive-like boxes to symbolize the driving away of evil spirits. The astonishing force and excitement attracted a huge number of local and international visitors.
Another regional celebration was the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival held in Pingxi, a remote hillside district in New Taipei City. The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is one of the most colorful activities held during the year. The night sky was illuminated with countless floating lanterns decorated with wishes and images relating to their owners. It was an enchanting sight that is rarely viewed elsewhere in the world.