The Spring Lantern Festival marks the first full moon of the lunar calendar, and the last day of the almost two-week-long Chinese New Year celebrations.
If you’re in town during this festive time, you’ll no doubt see red lanterns hanging everywhere, from shops, restaurants, banks, and even marketplaces, as people clean and decorate to welcome in the new year.
This ancient tradition of lantern making goes back thousands of years, using natural materials such as bamboo, wheat, paper and silk. Over time the art form flourished, with lanterns becoming more intricate, as well as bigger and more inventive.
The lanterns can take any shape, and as 2019 is the Year of the Pig, you can definitely expect to see some pig lanterns displayed prominently. Other auspicious symbols are goldfish, fruit, and, of course, dragons, as a symbol of power and strength.
One of the best places to see the beautiful lanterns is at the Piazza of the Hong Kong Cultural Center in Tsim Sha Tsui, by the Clock Tower. There is a lantern exhibition which runs for almost a month, and every night the intricate lanterns are illuminated for the public. Nearby Salisbury Gardens also displays beautiful lanterns for the public.
On February 19th, the Piazza hosts a Lantern Carnival, a free event with not only lanterns, but also traditional dances, music, and performances. You can feel the beat of the drums as the lions and dragons dance and compete. You can even try your hand at this traditional craft by making your own lanterns at the arts and crafts booths, set up nearby.
This is a great opportunity to see the beauty of Chinese lantern making, as well as the interesting mix of ancient customs with modern popular culture.