20 displays handcrafted with Silk, 15000 LED lights – amazingly displayed at the Chinese Lantern Festival, Cary, NC

The lantern festival is a Chinese festival celebrated from the days of emperors (~ dated 2000 years ago) . It is celebrated on the first Chinese lunar month also called as “Xuan” month. Hence the festival also called as Yuan Xiao festival marks the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. The idea is for people to enjoy viewing colorful heaps of lanterns so that people can appreciate the beauty, solve puzzles on the patterns and eat out with their family, making it like a family reunion. Different legends on this festival talk about a prayer by the emperors to  bring favorable weather and good health for the people in the country, another one talks about this festival being a dedication to “Tianguan” the Taoist god responsible for prosperity, yet another legend talks about a warrior Lan Moon who led a rebellion against a tyrannical king. There are numerous other mythological stories associated with the lantern festival and hence it is called by several different names.

From what I had read about it, the most culturally prevalent norms during this festival was about enjoying the lantern lights, guessing the riddles on the lanterns and eating Tangyuan or a rice ball filled with red bean paste or fruit preserves or peanut butter. The designs on the lanterns ranged from the very simple to the most complex, with different lanterns signifying things important from a folk perspective.  The most common things are however the Chinese associations with fruits, flowers, animals, birds, people, buildings etc. The speciality dish Tangyuan has a round shape of the balls and the belief is that the round shape of the balls and the bowls together symbolizes reunion or togetherness and brings in happiness and prosperity to all.

In the cities and streets of China, there are lanterns lighted everywhere in various shapes and sizes – in houses, streets, shopping areas, complexes etc,. Children are often found holding lanterns like balloons filled with light and wading through the streets.

I was intrigued by these stories and did not miss an opportunity when Cary’s Booth Amphitheater hosted the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival in late 2016- early 17. The huge gates admitting people inside the amphitheater was brightly lit and embellished with traditional Chinese patterns and dragons. The pathway leading inside glowed with thousands of colorful lanterns which seemed like stars showering flowers from the sky. A garden of flowers welcomed me in all vivid colors and I watched a lot of people trying to take a selfie in the dark night in this valley of flowers. The lanterns ranged from tiny bulbs to mighty castles and were displayed in a themed arrangement.The little ones were attracted towards the animal kingdom and sea world themes, while the adults were drawn towards the more magnificent displays of flower arrangements, dragon arrangements, beautiful swans with lotus flowers all reflecting eclectically in the water. The highlight was however the imperial Chinese dragon at Symphony Lake which drew many visitors. Amidst the cold weather and the freezing temperatures, photography enthusiasts stopped at every nook and corner to take pictures of the glowing beauty that words would hardly justify. The craftsmanship was visible in almost each and every display from the tiniest speck to the mammoth splurge and was set for grandeur.

dragons

I stopped a few moments before the lustrous animal displays – cock, tiger, horse, snake, bull, dragon before going on to the gleaming array of warriors all uptight with their swords, stone armor, wielded lances and cross bows. The stage then became alive with several performances – a sleek dance performance by Chinese womenfolk, followed by sword fights, Chinese acrobatic performances, and a fantastic balancing act where a Chinese juggler juggled several different objects from his hands to his head and ultimately balanced a ceramic pot from his hands to leg to head. Splendido!

What a way to celebrate the New Year by experiencing a different culture which had its own story of art, beauty, and craftsmanship, all blended together. 

Blog by: Arthi Sridharan, Marketing Professional, NC

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