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Sky Lantern festivals are gaining in popularity. Every year during Lantern Festival, thousands of people in Ping-xi, Taiwan sky light lanterns and send them off with prayers – a ritual that dates back centuries with counterparts in mainland China, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand. Most common among adherents of traditional folk, Taoist and Buddhist practices the popularity of these festivals is growing steadily throughout Asia and the Western world.

History and Origins

Sky lanterns originated during the 3rd century AD in Ping-xi, Taiwan. The Han settlers of the remote mountain area near Taipei were plagued by murder and robbery so they devised the “sky lanterns” as a signaling method. During peace time people set them off to aid prayer. They would make a wish and send the sky lantern off into the air. They believed the lantern’s ascent would elevate it towards the gods themselves. The practice evolved into rituals for good luck and eventually into a cultural tradition celebrated annually in Ping-xi as Lantern Festival.

Tradition and Belief

The common belief, particularly among Buddhists, is that they symbolize problems floating away. In Thailand, where the lantern’s flame is said to symbolize wisdom, lanterns are offered to temples and monks, givers believing they will receive enlightenment in return. “The lantern’s light shows them to the ‘right path’,” sayshttp://www.skylanterns.net/About_Sky_Lanterns.asp where a video shows two women sending off a large lantern

Festivals today

In the modern days, Sky Lantern are used throughout Asia to celebrate such occasions as New Year, weddings, birthday parties and anniversaries. The most famous is the Ping-xi Sky Lantern Festival itself. Despite the remoteness of Ping-xi, the festival draws huge crowds and is widely reported in the media.http://www.gio.gov.tw/info/festival_c/glue_e/taipei1.htm states that the number and size of lanterns increases with each festival. The lanterns are decorated with pictures, names of the owners, and their wishes. They light up the still night sky over the village of creating an unusually beautiful image.

In Thailand’s Yi Peng festival the lanterns resemble flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish floating gracefully through the skies. They are believed to help rid people of their troubles and are also used to decorate houses and streets. The most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations are in Chiang Mai. Northern Thais use sky lanterns all year round for any special occasion. The Loy Kratong festival is one in which lovers gather on the riverbanks to float flowers and candles, launch fireworks and release sky lanterns together. Khom Loi is now so popular with Thais that it has become an integral part of the Loy Krathong festival all over the country.

The record for sky lanterns was broken in December 2009 at the annual Freedom Faithnet Global Event in Jakarta when 10,318 lanterns were lit simultaneously. Night Sky Lanterns, makers of the first eco friendly sky lantern (all biodegradable materials and no metal wire) sums it up in their blog, “As the last one floats into the air you will see the sky aglow with the warm illumination from the lanterns. Not only will you be following a time honoured tradition of well wishes by releasing the night sky lanterns into the air but you will have a spectacular display that can be seen for several miles.”

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 at 3:44 PM and is filed under General News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.



 

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