According to one legend, about 2000 years ago, on a dark and cold winter’s day, Emperor Hanmingdi heard that monks lit lanterns in temples to praise Buddha on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, which marks the date of the first full moon in the Chinese calendar.
Being a strong advocate of Buddhism and probably looking for a way to inspire the masses during the gloomy season, he ordered all residencies to light lanterns on that evening, which officially ends the Chinese New Year and marks the return of spring.
Kindling paper lamps on this day became a tradition in the country and eventually a full-fledged yearly festival. Children played games with the lanterns, guessing obscure riddles scribbled on their illuminated surfaces in exchange for small gifts. Dancers performed the lion dance, the most traditional folk dance in China, to ward off evil, attract good fortune, and conjure strength, which is symbolized by the powerful feline. Families ate tangyuan, round vegan dumplings stuffed with sweet fillings such as peanuts, walnuts or sugar, meant to resemble the full moon.
At first, the lamps were simple, just mere white paper fold ups with a solitary candle igniting a path out of the darkness of winter and representing the coming of new life. Only the nobles had more intricate creations, and they often painted theirs red to symbolize good fortune. As years passed, people created more elaborate, colorful designs: dragons, flowers, fruits, birds and, even, people. Now, the lamps are immense, ornate structures that draw crowds from all over of the world, and the festival is celebrated in various countries including a few in the West. In London, the United Kingdom has the Magical Lantern Festival.
This holiday season and beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 30, the Lantern Light Festival is coming to the Miami Dade County Fair Expo Center. Set up outdoors, the lanterns bring enormous amazing, awe-inspiring lit-up creations from Chinese artisans.
The majestic lanterns are hand-made from silk cloth and three-dimensional stained glass; some are over 30 feet high and others are 300 feet long. The American idea of bigger and better seems to have influenced the traditional light show. The visual display of elaborate artistry and Asian culture promises to be an entertaining, romantic experience for couples and families alike.
Each Chinese lantern is custom-built by Chinese artisans and typically takes four weeks and a team of seven to complete.The lanterns appear to be three-dimensional stained glass, and are handmade from hundreds of pieces of silky cloth. Some are over 30 feet high and others are up to 300 feet long.
The Lantern Light Festival will open on Wednesday Nov. 30, 2016 and be on display until Jan. 8, 2017 from 5 to 11 p.m. at the Miami Dade County Fair Expo Center,10901 SW 24th St., Miami, FL 33165.
For tickets, www.lanternlightfestival.com