The Lantern Festival by Katrina Brown
The Lantern Festival is held on the 15 day of the Lunar New Year (Feb 28 in 2010), to celebrate the birthday of the God of Heaven. In Taiwan, there are many activities you can attend to celebrate the festival. Local temples will hold celebrations, and you can also attend these three popular events: Taipei Lantern Festival; Pingshi Lantern Festival; and Yan Shui Fireworks Festival.
Between February 26 and March 3, the Taipei Lantern Festival will be held around Taipei City Hall and Sun-Yet Sen Memorial Hall. There will be a laser and sound show, where the main lantern (this year is a tiger) will be lit up. The Taipei Lantern Festival is very popular and can get crowded.
Pingshi, outside Taipei, is the site of the release of traditional paper lanterns. One story goes, that the Han inhabitants of the remote area were often under attack, and the released lanterns to let “help” know they were there. Pingshi has become a very popular site for celebrating the Lantern Festival. People get lanterns and write messages of luck and hope on them, and then release them into the night sky. This event is one not to be missed during your stay in Taiwan.
For the more adventurous, there is the rather exciting YanShui Fireworks Display, or " beehive of fireworks". This event is a religion-based one. In the late 1900’s, Tainan County’s YanShui suffered 20 years of plague. The townspeople called upon the diety Kuan Kung and the dieties of Heaven to help. The townspeople released firecrackers along the road to guide Kuan Kung through their town. After the event, the plague was gone from YanShui. From then on, every year at the time of the Lantern festival, the townspeople invite Kuan Kung back and guide him through the town. The event lasts all night. You are advised to wear full protective clothing including a full-face helmet, as fireworks are shot into the crowds.
On a gentler note, people at home will worship, share a family meal and then eat rice balls; either “Yuan Hsiao”(rolled on bamboo) or “Tang Yuan” (rolled in the hand), depending on the custom of the area. The rice balls represent family unity, which is the overall theme of Chinese New Year and its surrounding celebrations.