How the Lantern Festival Is Being Celebrated Around the World

How the Lantern Festival Is Being Celebrated Around the World

Communities in China and around the world are spending the weekend celebrating the Lantern Festival, which falls on Saturday, Feb. 24 and signals the end of the 2024 Lunar New Year festivities, which welcomed the Year of the Dragon.

The lantern festival falls on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar and marks the first full moon of the new lunar year. People traditionally celebrate the holiday by decorating with colorful lanterns, often with riddles written on them and prizes for those who solve the puzzles.

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Here’s how people around the globe are enjoying the holiday. 

How China is celebrating the Lantern Festival 

Throngs welcomed the Lantern Festival in cities across the world’s second most populous country with 1.4 billion people. Beijing hosted a slew of lantern festival events across the city. Families flocked to see impressive lantern displays and illuminated inflated animals. In Rizhao, bakers bustled to make the holiday’s special sweet rice balls, shaped and colored like persimmons.

Celebrations everywhere featured lion and dragon dances. One city, Qiandongnan, even combined a dragon dance with fireworks—the performers dressed in fire suits and helmets.

Many cities featured a regional twist on the celebrations, with displays of unique folk art and clothing. In Anyang, face-painted creatives performed on stilts in a parade. Another city, Qingdao, threw a carnival featuring traditional dances, drum performances, and folk art. 

Fireworks burst across skylines nationwide. In Chongqing, tourists watched a remote-controlled performance of a giant illuminated bird fly through the sky.

How Asia is welcoming the Lantern Festival

Some communities in southeast Asia also celebrate the holiday, which they call Cap Go Meh.

Penang, Malaysia hosted a street festival with fire juggling, food, art, crafts, a dragon dance, orchestra, drum performances, and a traditional Malay Dondang Sayang, a type of song that has been honored by UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, some families flocked to Chinese temples and then ate lontong cap go meh, a traditional holiday dish consisting of a rice cake in banana leaves, served alongside chicken, boiled eggs, vegetables in coconut milk soup, prawn crackers and chili paste.

Others in Indonesia pierced their faces with needles—a practice said to ward off evil spirits.

The Lantern Festival festivities in Canada

Canada, home to a large Chinese diaspora, was set to light up for the holiday. Vancouver was hosting a series of events for its LunarFest, including art exhibits, film screenings, origami workshops and more.

Toronto’s Chinatown planned two days of celebrations featuring a lion dance, a Chinese luncheon, and a mahjong game tournament. Across the city, restaurants prepared to offer deals and special treats. Performances, lantern displays, and arts fairs filled public places.

Some events paid homage to other cultures honoring the holiday, with a Vietnamese New Year celebration expected and a library hosting a Korean Lunar New Year with readings in Korean.

The Lantern Festival proceedings in the U.K.

Some British communities also observed the holiday, with a Chinatown food crawl in London and a commemoration in Southampton.

Elsewhere, modern Chinese restaurants in Birmingham are hosting their own celebrations to mark the special occasion.

How the U.S. is marking the Lantern Festival  

Beyond local celebrations among Chinese communities, some official events were marking the holiday in cities across the U.S., including a make-your-own lantern event in New York City.

In San Francisco, local organizations coordinated a celebration featuring performances, lanterns and mahjong. In neighboring Oakland, home to its own Chinatown, non-profit groups collaborated to feature Asian-American artists and support local businesses over the weekend.

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