The thing that makes the night special is the presence of light. Light—put side-by-side with darkness—creates a kind of beautiful contrast that make things a bit more shiny and sometimes, inexplicably more graceful. One of the things that could illustrate this is the lantern, or the little sources of light that has helped man see amidst the shadows.
This is perhaps one of the reason why people started celebrating sky lantern festivals. Also referred to as Kongming Lanterns, these illuminated pieces of paper have become a tradition in places such as China and Thailand. Usually, the lanterns are made of rice paper with bamboo frames and contains a small candle inside. It is the heat from the flame that allows the lanterns to make their way to the sky, creating a kind of image that is absolutely breathtaking. As long as there are flames, the lantern remains lit up and above ground. When these lanterns are lit up and set free into the dark night sky, something magical happens.
In China, there is the Yuanxiao or Shangyuan Festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month. This festival has been around since the Han Dynasty, and still continues to be celebrated today. During this significant Chinese festival, families decorate their houses with pretty lanterns, streets are illuminated by creative lantern designs, and different kinds of big celebrations are held in the cities.
When the sky lantern festival is celebrated in Taiwan, old practices continue to take place. One of the most interesting ones is the writing of wishes on the paper lanterns and praying for them to come true as the small, lit item makes its way to the sky. Many believe that some parts of the lantern will go to the heavens and their prayers will be received by the gods.
Malaysia also has a very interesting and beautiful way of celebrating their lantern festival. The Chap Goh Mei is the last day of the Chinese New Year Festival, so being the last day of a huge celebration, something special arises during this day. The lanterns are placed in houses, streets, temples, and public squares. There are activities held in different parts of the country, most of them involving cultural performances.
One of the most interesting things about their version of the festival is that it happens on the same time Valentine’s Day is celebrated. The single people usually consider this as a time for some romantic match-making—they take with them some mandarin oranges, write their name and phone number on it, and throw it in a pond or a lake. Sounds kind of traditional and a bit superstitious, but it remains as something that lots of people still look forward to today.
In Chiang Mai Bangkok, a huge lantern festival is also held each year. The Yee Peng Lanna International Festival is the time when thousands of lanterns are launched in the sky. Considered as one of the most important wonders of Thailand, this festival are lit up as offerings for Lord Buddha. As part of the Loi Krathong Festival in the country, this attraction has lanterns of different shapes and sizes elevated to the air, creating a sight that is so mystic and utterly otherworldly.