Thursday, February 25, 2016

Celebrating The Lantern Festival with a Bang

The Lantern Festival celebrated each year on the 15th of the first month of the lunar calendar marks the official end of Lunar New Year celebrations. Mainstream tradition is to eat mochi balls, look at lanterns, and guess riddles, but I decided to end the new year with a bang (pun intended) like this:
Though only a fraction of the size of the Beehive Fireworks Festival in Tainan, the Neihu "Night of Teasing the Earth God" event is still a lot of fun. The Earth God is paraded around in his sedan chair and shop owners load boxes of firecrackers on him and then light them up. It's a tradition that's supposed to bring prosperity to the owners.
The Earth God being paraded around in a sedan chair
Boxes of firecrackers prepared by shop owners

Because of the close proximity of the firecrackers, the surrounding crowd also gets to experience the firecrackers firsthand. It also symbolizes you getting a piece of the prosperity. I had never been that close to a firecracker before, so feeling the heat emitted from it was quite an experience!
Before coming I heard rumors of how dangerous the event is, but I actually found it to be a very safe and controlled environment. Police and firefighters monitor the entire event while parade staff look out for the safety of the crowd. Just remember to wear proper protection like a hat, face mask, and ear plugs. The rest of the parade also included other friends of the Earth God, drums, and a dragon. Residents also shoot fireworks to add to the festivities.
Friend of the Earth God, Third Prince

The Earth God

After the parade moved on we hung out in the back for a bit to pick up the firecracker remains and put them in a red envelope. This supposedly brings good luck for the new year.

If you're ever in Taiwan during the Lantern Festival I highly recommend attending this event as it's a unique cultural event that only happens once a year. I had a great time and it was a memorable experience for sure. Now that the Lantern Festival is over, let's not all monkey around. Wishing you a great year of the monkey!

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