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Lighting up your travels

Fire and light in its various forms have long been an integral part of human celebrations. From fireworks that illuminate the sky and the candles of Chanukah to the twinkling lamps of Diwali and the burning of effigies in festivals around the world, we’re fascinated and entranced by the warmth and glow that they bring. And some of the most fantastic presentations of this can be found in the various lantern festivals celebrated around the world.

There are many theories about the origins of these festivals, with many attributed to local deities and considered to celebrate our ability to hold back the darkness. Probably the earliest such organised ceremonies come from ancient China, records showing celebrations as far back as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 25 CE).

The Flexicover Team lists some of the best lantern festivals you may want to consider visiting!

RiSE Festival; Nevada & Arizona, USA

The RiSE lantern festival is set to be held in 2 locations, on 10th October 2015 in Mojave and on 11th November in Phoenix. Inspired by lantern festivals in Thailand, it brings people together in celebration. Local musicians play in order to create the ‘right ambiance’ for the event. As sunset falls, the first round of lanterns is released simultaneously by everyone in the venue and for the next two hours people can send up lanterns whenever they wish. This paper lantern festival particularly celebrates joy and hope, with many people writing their prayers, wishes and resolutions on the lanterns before releasing them.

Full Moon Lantern Festival; Hoi An, Vietnam

On the fourteenth day of every lunar month, the old town area of Hoi An, a popular tourist destination, observes a wonderful full moon lantern festival. Electric lights are turned off and traffic comes to a stop. Shopkeepers, restaurateurs and locals light candles instead to pay homage to their ancestors on the night of the full moon. Special altars are built with offerings of fruit, incense and money whilst cardboard lotus-shaped lanterns with candles inside them are released onto the river to bring love, luck and happiness. The flotilla of waterborne lights makes for a spectacular view.

O-Bon Festival; Japan

O-Bon is one of the most popular festivals in Japan and is a Buddhist event that honours the souls of one’s ancestors. It’s believed that they return to visit their relatives during the 13-15th of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Depending on the region, it is celebrated either during July or August. During O-Bon, lanterns are lit outside houses to guide the returning spirits, offerings made to appease them and a dance (bon odori) is performed to welcome them home. One of the most magical parts of this Japanese lantern festival is at its close, when floating lanterns are released onto lakes, rivers and seas to guide the souls back to the netherworld.

Yi Peng; Thailand

Yi Peng is celebrated in northern Thailand (originating from the kingdom of Lan Na) on the full moon of the second month of the Lanna calendar, which falls on 25th November this year. During the festival, thousands of sky lanterns (khom loi) are released, dotting the night sky with glowing orbs of soft light. The most elaborate festivities are seen in Chiang Mai. Each person makes a wish when releasing their lantern, believing that the floating lantern symbolises all their worries and problems being carried away. People also decorate their houses, gardens and temples with intricate paper lanterns (khom fai) during this time.

Yuanxiao Festival; China

Perhaps the earliest, most well-known and widely celebrated lantern festival is the Chinese Lantern Festival, marking the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations, on the fifteenth day or first full moon of the first month of the lunar calendar (generally in February or March). Lanterns of all types, shapes and sizes are lit and special lion dances are performed by celebrants. Solving riddles inscribed on lanterns, eating sweet dumplings and making wishes for the future are some of the major festival activities. Chengdu in Sichuan holds a lantern fair, of which the crowning glory is a 38m high dragon-shaped lantern that spews fireworks from its mouth!

Whether you decide to go to one of the Asian lantern festivals or visit the United States for the RiSE festival, we at Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away, no matter which festival of lanterns you decide to attend.