Celebrating hope and joy from Thailand’s busy streets to Hawai’i’s golden shores, these lantern festivals around the world will lift your spirits and illuminate your soul.
The beloved tradition of lantern festivals first began in China as a celebration meant to promote prosperity, peace and forgiveness. Often aligning with a particular day of the lunar calendar, the festivals see thousands of lanterns lit in unison to drive the darkness away and shed light on a bright future. Meanwhile, cultural performances, lantern riddles, delicious food and more adorn this celebratory night – a true revelry of life. Even though the Chinese Lantern Festival steals the show, there are some places around the world that have their own delightful versions of this luminous celebration.
Read on to see our picks for the best lantern festivals around the world.
Loy Krathong and Yi Peng, Thailand
In northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai, two impressive lantern festivals – Loy Krathong and Yi Peng – combine to turn the city into a twinkling spectacle. Taking place on 28 November 2023, the magical festival is celebrated by lighting up the city to pay respect to Buddha and give thanks to the water goddess for an abundant year.
During Yi Peng, sky lanterns called khom loi are released into the air, while during Loy Krathong, the rivers are ablaze with thousands of water lanterns called krathongs, made of either the trunk of a banana tree or baked bread. While Loy Krathong is celebrated across Thailand, it’s only in the north that the festivals are celebrated concurrently, making for a truly enchanting experience.
Want to see this unforgettable lantern festival? Book your Thailand trip here.
Hoi An Lantern Festival, Vietnam
On the 14th day of every lunar month, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, Hoi An Ancient Town in Vietnam lights up with colourful, candlelit lanterns lining the banks of the Hoai River. Locals and tourists alike come together to light the lanterns, which are said to bring prosperity, health and happiness.
Traditional folk dances and melodies of bamboo flutes, fiddles and drums resonate in the air, along with the delicious smell of foods like banh bao (steamed buns filled with mushrooms, pork and more), banh dap (baked rice paper cakes with onions and green beans) and banh xaoi (mango cake).
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Spring Lantern Festival, Hong Kong
The grand finale of Chinese New Year celebrations, the Spring Lantern Festival (also called Yuan Xiao), is truly one of the most spectacular celebrations in Hong Kong. Taking place on the first full moon of the lunar year, the festivities consist of colourful lanterns put on display for about a month before the activity-filled lantern carnival marks the end of the celebration.
While the famous red Chinese lanterns won’t be found here, colourful displays abound around nearly every corner, featuring illuminated dragons, goldfish, fruit and much more. An ancient tradition celebrated with zeal, this is certainly a wonder worth witnessing.
Book your escape to Hong Kong’s iconic metropolis here.
Nagasaki Lantern Festival, Japan
Originally started as a high-spirited Chinese New Year celebration, the Nagasaki Lantern Festival has become one of the most lively events in the city, where people come together to light roughly 15,000 Chinese lanterns and celebrate the lunar new year for 15 fun-filled days.
During the festival, you can expect to see traditional Chinese lion dances (shishimai), dragon dances, Chinese acrobats and performances with the erhu, a two-string musical instrument. No revelry is complete without yummy food, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by hundreds of stalls that will woo your palate with the flavours of China.
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Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawai’i
Held every year on Memorial Day – the last Monday in May – in Honolulu’s gorgeous Ala Moana Beach Park, this tradition honours lost loved ones and expresses hope for a peaceful future. Messages are written on lanterns that are set free to float out to sea, in hopes that they will find their way to the departed beloved souls.
A moving and enchanting evening steeped in the traditions of the Buddhist denomination of Shinnyo-en, the lantern floating sees thousands of people gather to remember their dear ones, and the glittering lanterns that float across the mesmerising blue water paint a picture of serenity that can’t be forgotten.
See the floating lanterns for yourself by booking a Hawai’i stay here.
Please note: Dates may vary.
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