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Floating Lantern Festival – February 12, 2025

The Floating Lantern Festival is on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar. This year, it is on February 12. Floating lanterns are traditional Chinese lights made of paper or oiled silk designed to be released onto waterways or into the air. Lanterns that are meant for water are called floating lanterns or water lanterns, while those that fly up in the sky are called sky lanterns. The lamps are also decorated with paper shapes, usually animals or Chinese characters. A lantern is made of a thin square frame with a few bamboo skewers holding the sides together. People also believe that letting lanterns float onto lakes, seas, rivers, and water wells will bring fertility to the land because water spirits welcome them with happiness.

History of Floating Lantern Festival

The history of the Floating Lantern Festival is very long and exciting. People made their lanterns using bamboo or papier-mâché in ancient times. The lanterns were usually shaped like dragons or horses and decorated with colorful ribbons. They could be hung on walls or ceilings at home or in temples during celebrations such as weddings or birthdays. In most places, lanterns are just hung up and admired; letting them float down waterways or releasing them in the air each has a different meaning.

It is said that around 2,000 years ago, in the Han Dynasty (25 A.D. — 220 A.D.), Emperor Ming emulated Buddhist monks who lit lanterns every 15th day of the Chinese year. He ordered lanterns to be lit in the palace, temples, and houses to show respect for Buddha. In another legend, the Jade Emperor, a god in Chinese myths, wanted to burn down a village for killing his favorite crane. His daughter felt pity for the villagers and told them about it, and a wise man advised them to hang up and light lots of red lanterns to make it look like the village is already burning.

The Floating Lantern Festival is a holiday celebrated in many Asian countries. Thanks to Chinese cultural influence, the festival spread to neighboring nations like Korea and Japan. While the Floating Lantern Festival celebrations are still celebrated in China and abroad, the holiday is not included in any of the seven official public holidays recognized in Mainland China, so people generally do not get days off work or school.

The tradition of the Floating Lantern Festivals has been popular in China, Japan, and other Asian countries for hundreds of years. In the United States, Chinese-style Lantern Festival celebrations are becoming increasingly popular. The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival is one such event.

Floating Lantern Festival timeline

300 B.C.
Kongming’s Sky Lantern

The Chinese general Zhuge Liang, known as Kongming among his friends, lights a sky lantern with an attached note to signal for reinforcements.

25 A.D. — 220 A.D.
Emperor Ming’s Lanterns

Emperor Ming, an advocate of Buddhism, orders lanterns to be lit all over his kingdom on the 15th day of the Chinese calendar.

13th Century
The Yi Peng Festival

In ancient Thai Lanna culture. Yi Peng Festival is celebrated by lighting sky lanterns based on a legend of a candle-carrying bird flying around Buddha.

The First Shinnyo Lantern Floating

Her Holiness Shinso Ito, a Buddhist leader, starts the tradition of lighting lanterns and floating them on Ke’ehi Lagoon on Memorial Day.

Floating Lantern Festival FAQs

What do you call a lantern that floats?

Sky lanterns can be called sky candles or fire balloons in different languages, depending on the culture. In Thai, they are known as “khom loi.” Floating lanterns or water lanterns are meant to be set down on water, where they will float along with the current.

Where is the biggest Lantern Festival?

Diwali in India is the biggest Lantern Festival. In the early fall, Hindus worldwide celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. It is called many names in many languages, but it always takes place on the 15th day of Kartika, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar.

Do lanterns come back down?

After the lantern’s fuel runs out, there will be no flame or fuel material left to burn. It will self-extinguish in the air and float back to Earth. Lanterns will either biodegrade or remain as waste depending on the material used.

Floating Lantern Festival Activities

  1. Make a wish

    Make a wish before releasing your lantern. You can write it down on paper and put it inside your lantern. It is said that your wishes will come true if you release your lantern during this festival! However, make sure that you are allowed to release floating lanterns or sky lanterns in your area before doing so.

  2. Enjoy the festival

    You can enjoy this festival with your family and friends at any time of the year, depending on where you want to celebrate it. You can also enjoy this festival yourself if you have no one around who wants to come with you.

  3. Share on social media

    You can celebrate this day with others by sharing this day with your friends and family on social media. You can also post pictures of floating lantern events that you attended to inspire others to attend, since these events usually look mesmerizing!

5 Other Countries That Celebrate Floating Lantern Festival

  1. Indonesia

    On Vesak Day, thousands go on a pilgrimage to the biggest Buddhist temple in Java to celebrate Buddha’s birthday and witness thousands of lanterns fly up into the sky.

  2. Myanmar

    The Thadingyut Festival of Lights is held to celebrate the end of the Buddhist calendar’s Lenten season, symbolizing Buddha’s return.

  3. Japan

    One of the most popular floating lantern celebrations in Japan is the Kyoto River Lantern Festival, held every year to remember the people who died in World War 2.

  4. India

    The Diwali festival is celebrated on the 13th day of the Hindu month Kartika, which is between October and November in the Gregorian calendar, to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

  5. Poland

    The Floating Lanterns Festival is a magical tradition held on the night of the first full moon after Easter, and it takes place on the banks of the Vistula River in Warsaw.

Why We Love Floating Lantern Festival

  1. It gets rid of bad things

    Lantern festivals help people get rid of bad influences in their lives; instead, lanterns attract good luck and fortune to their families in the coming year. They also look very pretty!

  2. It remembers those who died

    It is a way to remember those who have passed on. By sending out lanterns shaped like animals or other objects through the sky with messages written on them, people can remember their loved ones fondly and show their appreciation.

  3. It symbolizes reconciliation

    The Chinese also believe that lanterns symbolize peace and forgiveness, based on the legend of the Jade Emperor. In fact, in many lantern festivals held for the souls of the departed, the lanterns are meant to lead their souls to the afterlife so that they can find peace.

Floating Lantern Festival dates

2022February 15Tuesday
2023February 5Sunday
2024February 24Saturday
2025February 12Wednesday
2026March 3Tuesday

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