Every winter, Taiwan is home to a number of impressive and exciting Lantern Festivals that celebrate the end of Chinese New Year. Also called Lunar New Year, it’s the longest and most important holiday in Taiwanese culture. Typically held over one to two weeks in late January or February — depending on when the holiday falls on the lunar calendar — visiting one of Taiwan’s signature lantern festivals are one of the best times to learn about Chinese traditions. For 2014, the Year of the Horse lands on January 31, and most lantern festivals start on the 15th of the first lunar month, or February 14.
Here’s a look at some of the various lantern festivals that take place during Chinese New Year in Taiwan.
Nantou County 2014 Lantern Festival
Taiwan’s main lantern festival is held in rotating cities, and Nantou County has the privilege of hosting for 2014. It is one of the top three festivals in the country and is definitely worth attending if your travels take you to Taiwan during the holiday period. It’s traditionally observed on the 15th day of the first lunar month and this year, the Taiwan Lantern Festival will take place February 14-23 in Zhongxing Village, Caotun Township in Nantou County.
For 2014, the Nantou Lantern Festival will feature the main lantern centerpiece that will extend the equivalent of a multi-story building while other secondary lantern areas adorn the festival grounds. Look for live music, street food vendors and more.
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival
If you are looking for Taiwan’s lantern festival that most resembles the iconic images from those in Southeast Asia, it’s the Pingxi, or Pingsi, Sky Lantern Festival you are looking for. Discovery Channel voted the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival as the second biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the world. The tradition of releasing lanterns is said to have originated at the start of the spring planting season in the remote village of Pingxi. People would go to temple to pray for blessings and released the lanterns with prayers into the sky. The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival coincides with the 15th day of the new lunar year and dates back more than 100 years.
Taipei Lantern Festival
This popular festival has been taking place since 1997 and continues to wow both locals and tourists. For 2014, the theme is “Let Your Dreams Gallop in Vigorous Taipei City” and will incorporate various elements and themed lantern areas. Main areas of the Taipei Lantern Festival include Taipei Expo Park’s Yuanshan Park and Fine Arts Parks Area (excluding the Taipei Children’s Recreation Center and Taipei Fine Arts Museum). The festival extends beyond the main areas to Zhongshan Road (Section 1 to 3) where the “Blissful Sea of Lights” adorns the road. Look for seasonal displays, lights, colors and elements to brighten up Zhongshan Road for Chinese New Year.
Yanshuei Beehive Rockets Festival
Also called Yanshui, the Yanshuei Beehive Rockets Festival is considered one of the largest folk celebrations in the world. Hundreds of thousands of firecrackers are set off at the same time, much like the equivalent of bees coming out of their hives. It is believed the event originated after a massive cholera outbreak in the late 1800’s, hitting the town on Yanshui notably hard. After years of a dwindling population, residents decided to call on Guan Di, the God of War, to help them fight the disease, attracting his attention by setting off fireworks. The tradition continued and has turned into one of the most popular celebrations in Taiwan.
It’s held at the God of War Temple in Yanshui, Tainan City and starts one day prior to the lantern festival. For 2014, the festival starts on February 13 and continues on into the morning of the 14th.
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