Thursday, March 1, 2012

taipei lantern festival

The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th of the first month of the lunar year. It is also the first night you can see the full moon of the lunar year. There are a whole bunch of legends behind the origin of the festival but I'll just mention the one that seems the most interesting to me. Haha. A long long LONG time ago a crane from Heaven flew down to Earth. After the crane landed, it was hunted and killed by some villages. The Jade Emperor of Heaven was very angry when this happened because that crane was one of his favorites. The Emperor decided that on the fifteenth lunar day, he would send a storm of fire to destroy the village. The daughter of the Jade Emperor, upon learning of this, warned the villagers of her father's plan. Everyone was in a panic because they didn't know how to avoid this disastrous outcome. A wise man from a nearby village told them that every family should hang red lanterns around their house, set up bonfires and light firecrackers on the days surrounding the fifteenth lunar day. All of this would would make it seem as if the village was already on fire. On the fifteenth day, the Jade Emperor sent his troops down to the village in order to destroy it. When the heavenly troops arrived, they saw that the village was already ablaze and reported the news to the Emperor. Satisfied at the news, the Jade Emperor left it at that. So from then on people celebrated the fifteenth lunar day by carrying lanterns and lighting firecrackers.

Since I've been in Taiwan I've heard so many firecrackers and seen so many fireworks being lite by ordinary citizens. They do it at all hours of the day. When Phil was here, people were lighting bonfires at midnight and were still setting off firecrackers. A common thing to do during the Lantern Festival besides admiring all the amazing lanterns is to eat tangyuan, also known as yuanxiao. The Lantern Festival is also known as the YuanXiao Festival, yuan is the first month of the Chinese calender and in ancient times xiao was used to refer to night. Back home my grandma makes tangyuan by hand and we use to help her roll the glutinous rice dough into balls. I remember when I was little my tangyuan had all these cracks and would come out really messed up once they were boiled. Haha. As I got older and had bigger hands I thought it would be cool to roll two of them at the same time like my grandma. I usually just ended up with one good one and a flattened one or both of them combined together to form a super huge one. The way my grandma made it, tangyuan came in two different styles, sweet and salty. Both of them delicious in their own way. I haven't had tangyuan for a long time since I haven't been home to celebrate this holiday. It sucks to still have school when these holidays are going on. It's nice that in Taiwan I'm given time to celebrate the holidays that actually mean something to me but again I'm not with my family. I didn't eat tangyuan this year but I'll try to hunt down a shop that sells them. Here in Taiwan I believe the filled tangyuan is popular here with red bean, sesame or peanuts. I actually don't think any of those are appealing so I would be happy to settle for some plain ones in syrup water.

The Taipei Lantern Festival was huge and there were several different areas containing different themed lanterns. The lanterns were humongous and definitely not for people to carry around. Besides giant lanterns there were also lanterns with riddles on them which people gathered around to solve. The theme of some of the lanterns were strange with things like robots and magical animals. The Taipei Lantern Festival was held on the 2nd to the 12th not even until the actual day of the Lantern Festival. I'm assuming it is because everyone would be too busy spending time with their family in their homes to go out and look at the lanterns and probably because no one would be manning the information booths. The Taipei Lantern Festival was cool because they actually gave out pamphlets with information about each lantern display and of the different musical performances. I was at the festival area pretty early since I didn't want to be stuck in a crowd and wanted to be able to see everything before having to ride the bus back to Hsinchu. The lanterns are better at night time when they are all lite but it gets way too crowded. Even then I had to snap pictures pretty quickly before someone started posing next to the lantern for a picture. I have several photos where there are people posing in them because there didn't seem to be an end of the people trying to jump in to get a pic... So annoying.

a dinosaur lantern - so random
so cute yet also so random
magical forest area - so magical wow wow wow
star of the show - dragon!
There were a lot more but that pretty much gives a small sampling of what was there. Some of the lanterns were of Chinese deities and had information about it on English. So I got some education along the way. It's nice since I see a lot of deities in temples and I never have a clue who I'm praying to or what areas those deities are in charge of.

2012 Taipei Lantern Festival Website

Has anyone ever heard of a yellow kiwi?!? I didn't even know such a thing existed. One of my students were describing it to me and I was like furry brown stuff that's a kiwi and it's not yellow it's green. They were saying how a yellow kiwi is sweeter and way better than a regular ol' green kiwi so I had to give it a try. Those yellow kiwis are super expensive... It doesn't have a sour taste but I must not have bought a ripe one because it wasn't that sweet either. Not hairy either!


  1. The yellow kiwi makes me think of a sweet potato...

  2. The magical forest looks really pretty. The yellow kiwi looks disgusting.