The psychedelic festival of lanterns in Taiwan

23 May

Held on the first full-moon night of the lunar year, the Lantern Festival is commonly regarded as one of the most important and romantic festivals in Taiwan. The festival is celebrated with lantern making, lantern riddle games, and displays of glittering decorative lanterns.

The origin of the festival lies in the festive activities of an agricultural people celebrating the lengthening of daylight hours and the coming of spring after the New Year. Other legends have it that the festival was actually started by an emperor of the Han dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.), who was a devout Buddhist and who ordered his people to display lights on the fifteenth night of the first month of the lunar year to pay respects to Buddha. According to the same legend, holding torches or lanterns on this night makes it easier to see deities descending from heaven to give blessings to the earth. Yet another legend has it that in the Tang dynasty, the emperors would celebrate the festival by ordering hundreds of beautiful women to sing and dance with lanterns in the brightly lit plaza. These festive activities gradually spread to the common people and developed into the most popular festival in the year after Chinese New Year. The festival is also called the Little New Year. In the old days, these festivities, together with the celebrations for the Chinese New Year, would last for as long as forty-five days. Nowadays the festival lasts for a week.

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