Each year, the Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar and signifies the end of Lunar New Year. Throughout Eastern and Central Asia, people celebrate this day by creating paper lanterns of different shapes and sizes, lighting fireworks, and taking part in numerous colorful traditions. It’s said that the Lantern Festival began around 2,000 years ago during the Han Dynasty, under Emperor Ming’s reign when he saw Buddhist monks in temples lighting lanterns to coincide with the first full moon of the year.
The Lantern Festival has become widely adopted as a cultural staple of the Lunar New Year and promotes reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness. Lanterns have evolved into intricate large-scale creations that are made after weeks of preparation. A common tradition can include writing riddles or wishes on paper lanterns, with the lanterns themselves being signifiers of good fortune. A number of this year’s decorations playfully reflected the Year of the Rabbit with rabbit-shaped lanterns adorning cities and villages across China and beyond. One of the largest gatherings happens in New Taipei City, Taiwan, for the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. Participants release thousands of lit paper lanterns into the night sky, with many writing their wishes before sending their lanterns off.