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I drove two hours to Philadelphia, spent an hour and a half there, drove two hours back all for a lantern festival, but was it worth it? Absolutely!

Chinese Lantern Festival

Large dragon lantern

The Chinese Lantern Festival originated from the Han Dynasty, with the purpose of making an opportunity for family reunion and marking the end of Lunar Chinese.

Originally, Chinese people hung lanterns in front of their doors to drive away evil spirits. As of today, the lantern has become a symbol of traditional Chinese culture, playing an important role in celebrations and ceremonies, and remain popular today.

What To Expect

Large elephant lantern

This was my first time attending a Chinese Lantern Festival. My only experience prior to this had been from what I’ve seen in movies, so I envisioned floating water lanterns, floats, kimonos and lots of candles. 

The lantern festival runs everyday from about 6PM – 10PM  from May until the end of June, although weekend hours may vary. Admission is free during the day time, but costs $18.00 at night. Admissions include access to the sculptures, performances,  food vendors and a beer garden.

Visiting the Festival

Traditionally, Chinese lanterns mainly falls into five categories, palace lantern, gauze lantern, bamboo lantern, family name lantern and pendent lantern. The shapes are varied from human figure, landscape, to flowers, animals and fish.

The Philadelphia lantern festival brings in most of the materials used to make these displays from China directly. A team of 30 Chinese artisans then assemble it in Franklin Square over the course of one month.

Giant spider lantern

The festival features about 29 giant lantern displays that illuminate the square once the sun sets. After viewing the displays, get to the lawn area early to find a good spot to watch the performances.

This was by far my favorite part of the night. Each act was introduced with a short lesson about the importance of each act to the Chinese culture. This made me values the acts that much more.

Plate Spinning

Chinese acrobatics typically work in groups, simultaneously twirling dishes with choreographed movements and contortions that add an extra element of difficulty and excitement.

Acrobatics & Contortionists

These acts are often confused and many times acrobats are also contortionist. The difference between acrobatics and contortion are in the acts. Acrobatics is the art of performing acrobatic gymnastic feats while contortion is the act of contorting, twisting or deforming something, especially oneself.

Biam Lian (Face-Changing)

During this act performers wear brightly colored costumes and move to quick, dramatic music while changing their face-mask within a the blink of an eye.

If someone figures out how they change their masks so quickly I’d love to know.

Blue weeping willow lantern

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Overall the festival was very enjoyable and would go back again. I was time constrained because of the weather which is why I drove down and back the same night. I would not recommend this method at all. Instead, make a full day out of it and end the night there or stop by at night and stay until the next day. This way you to get the most out of the festival.

Hotel Recommendations:

Comment below some of your favorite lantern festivals and where they are located as I’d love to visit!

Vania Nettleford

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Hi! I am Vania

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My name is Vania and I started my travel journey in 2012, even though I didn’t actually start frequently traveling…

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