The lights are suddenly turned off signalling the beginning. Darkness descends over the entire crowd. There is a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. With their cameras ready, the spectators wait patiently for the sponsor’s commercial to be over and the lightning show to begin. The announcer’s voice reaches a high pitch, indicating the end. There is a moment of silence and then, there is a sudden blast of music and the place totally illuminates!! The main lantern show is underway!! For three minutes, everyone is in awe as the 20 plus meter tall lantern changes colors as it rotates followed by a beautiful display of fireworks. Then, the main lantern lights are extinguished until the next lighting show which is scheduled to happen every 30 minutes!
The Taiwan Lantern Festival is an annual event that commences on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. Discovery Channel featured it as one of the best festivals in the world on its show called ‘Fantastic Festivals in the World’ and rightfully so; it is a huge event which takes several hours to explore and enjoy completely.
The location changes from year to year; two year ago it was held in Lugang, last year it was conveniently held in Hsin Chu just steps away from the High Speed Train Station, and this year ZhongXing New Village in Nantou County will host the festival. It is scheduled to begin on Friday, February 14th , 2014 and continue until Sunday, February 23rd, 2014.
The main lantern as well as several small lanterns scattered around the grounds usually center around the Chinese Zodiac animal of the year. Two years ago it the dragon, last year it was the snake, and this year it will be the horse. The main lantern usually stands at over 20 meters tall and this year, the golden horse will be 25 meters, the biggest main lantern yet.
The festival is usually divided into areas. There is the main lantern area where most of the larger lanterns are always placed as well as smaller lantern areas specifically created for competition purposes by students and the general public. There are also several theme lantern areas which vary from year to year and usually depend on what the host county is readily known for making or producing.
Transportation to the venue each year is very convenient. The organizers devise a bus networking system to get festival goers from major train and bus stations to the venue and temporary parking lots are set up on the outskirts of the host city or town with buses running regularly between the parking lot and the main festival area.
The festival is free to attend and as I have often said before, if you can attend on a weekday, then that is your best option. Weekends lead to lots of visitors and can cause headaches with regards to traffic, parking, viewing, and moving!!
Personally, this is my favorite festival held in Taiwan. There is something new and exciting to see every year and I get to explore a new area of Taiwan! The bright lights and beautiful lanterns make for great photo opportunities as well.
So if you happen to be in Taiwan between February 14th to the 23rd, be sure to pencil the Taiwan Lantern Festival into your travel itinerary! The bright lazer lights and 25 meter horse will be waiting for you!!
And with less than three weeks left before Chinese New Year Eve, my blog will be becoming festive as I paint the my blog red with pictures of spring couplets and red envelopes! So….Watch this space!!