Likely making a visible scene from space, the Lantern Festival in the Changhua township takes up the 9th portion of the Travel Geek: Documentary Taiwan series.
The entire town hosts lanterns from the small and lackluster, to the three-story, motorized, dragon-shaped behemoth adorned with synchronized lighting and a sound kit that would rival a Metallica concert. There are snake-like lanterns spanning an entire city-block and fashioned with a million pin-wheels. There are Spongebob Squarepants likenesses. There are seated Buddhas. And even hanging lanterns creating pulsing, writhing ceilings hanging over the roadways.
All of these lanterns have been imported from across the country. And each one represents a family business, a school or a bank or corporate alliance. And for one year, each team works painstakingly to outdo the next in this everyone-wins competition of showmanship and pride.
And this isn’t a small collection of a few interested parties who’ve come together in a yearly rivalry. This takes up the entire expanse of the town that is chosen each year. Forget Disneyland. Epcot couldn’t, on its best day, compete with even one street corner here. When I say they go all out, these people put Nasa to shame in their show of lights.
To say it’s epic, simply doesn’t do this event justice. It’s an experience like no other. And throughout the night, all one needs to do is walk, snack on the countless roadside vendor’s offerings and be amazed at the sheer size of this festival.
Originally starting in the mountains, this festival first resembled a few, scattered lanterns shooting skyward as the warning of an invasion was eminent. Today, while China claims tenure over this event, Taiwan definitely takes the event to the next level and has a death-grip over this celebration like an angry dog defending a bone.
As far as I am concerned, a lantern festival that encompasses an entire city, draws in an entire country and represents a year of the nation’s focus simply has no rival. It can get no bigger. And it need not. Because after something like this stretches beyond the city limits and contends internationally for the brightest light on the year’s darkest night, I’d imagine that the quaintness and personal touch would move from the impressive and awe-inspiring to be replaced by spite and shark-like antagonism.
Besides, by the look of things, they’d have to start hiring outside assistance to make this any grander. And that would mean it’s no longer a native event. The electric bill alone might require taking out a loan from China anyway!