Lantern Festivals Outside of China

Chinese culture celebrates the ending of its New Year with the Lantern Festival. This Chinese tradition has a fascinating history centered on two emperors, Wen of the Sui dynasty and Ming of the Han dynasty. When Emperor Wen came to power in 581 A.D., it was after a period of intense fighting. He commemorated his ascension and the end of hostilities by creating a national holiday known as “nao yuan xiao,” roughly translated to “going wild” or “fun.” On the other hand, Emperor Ming spread the practice of Buddhism and ordered the lighting of candles and the hanging lanterns.  Eventually the holiday and the Buddhism practice combined became the lantern festival we know of today. If you’re looking for where to go for Lantern Festivals outside of China, check out these two cities that embrace the Chinese tradition.

Fort Worth, Texas

Floating candles at night, lantern festivals outside of China
Floating lanterns. Photo Unsplash

The city of Fort Worth was once a small town famous primarily for rodeos and steakhouses!  Nowadays, it boasts a variety of cultural attractions that are representative of the city’s diversity. One of the city’s major cultural events this year will be the Fort Worth Water Lantern Festival. It’ll take place on April 6th at the Panther Island Pavilion. Tickets are $40, but discounts up to 38 percent are available for advance purchases. Tickets include admission to the event and one blank biodegradable floating lantern that you can decorate as you please. The event will also host a number of local food trucks and various family-friendly activities.

If you’re staying in Fort Worth, consider the Worthington Renaissance Hotel, which is just a short drive to the Panther Island Pavilion. It boasts a stunning indoor pool and a deck with incredible views of downtown. 

Auckland, New Zealand

Illuminated dragon sculptures at the Auckland Lantern Festival in 2009, Lantern Festivals Outside of China
Auckland Lantern Festival in 2009: Photo on Flickr by Robert Engberg / CC BY 2.0)

Another city for enjoying Lantern Festivals outside of China is Auckland, New Zealand. The city hosts a Lantern Festival that lasts an amazing four days! The annual festival takes place near Grafton Station and features a variety of Asian food vendors, live music and family-friendly activities that highlight authentic Chinese traditions. Activities you can take part in include singing at the Karaoke Corner; martial arts at their “Kung-Fu Courtyard;” and dancing with the Shanghai Performing Arts. There’ll also be fireworks at the conclusion of the event. The festival is free and attended by thousands of people every year.

The Lantern Festival is the most important occasion for Chinese culture. Its traditions go back thousands of years and have since expanded around the world. These Lantern Festivals outside of China celebrated in the cowboy city of Fort Worth and in New Zealand’s beautiful capital showcase the best of Chinese customs. Plan your visit with friends and family and participate in some of China’s most beautiful traditions.

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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