The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

You can spot the Magical Lantern Festival held at Chiswick House in London from several roads away.  The bright colours in this Chinese light festival mark the inky sky over sleepy Chiswick in a striking gash much like a neon highlighter on paper.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

The Chinese lantern festival marked to end of the Chinese New Year celebrations has come to London.

The Magical Lantern Festival

Although the Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick is in its second year, this Chinese light festival took several years to plan.  I could easily see why because the festival is very large and elaborate. It is part of the celebration of the Chinese New Year in 2017 which is the Year of the Rooster.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

The Lantern Festival is traditionally held at the end of Chinese of New Year.

The theme this year is the Silk Road which were ancient trade routes that criss-crossed from China to Europe. The Silk Road only got its name in the 19th century because it sounded romantic and the first merchandise traded was silk. For thousand of years, these routes had no name but plenty of trading activity. As a byproduct of trading activity, the Silk Road brought ancient cultures in touch with each other.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

Merchants and camels on the silk road.

The Magical Lantern Festival is on in London in January and February. I felt sorry for its neighbours – that’s a long time to have your night sky lit up in day-glo colours. Prior to its arrival in London, the Magical Lantern Festival spent time in other British cities.he Chinese Lantern Festival

History of The Chinese Lantern Festival

Chinese lantern festivals date back a couple of thousands of years. During the Western Han Dynasty (206BC to 25 AD), the festival was being celebrated with lanterns in temples. When the devout Buddhist Emperor Hanmingdi heard that Buddhist monks light lanterns to Buddha on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, he ordered this practice countrywide. Later doing the Tang Dynasty, the use of lanterns spread to the palaces and streets.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

The elaborate palaces of the Tang Dynasty.

When is the Chinese Lantern Festival?

The Chinese Lantern Festival starts on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. In 2017 and 2018, the exact date will be February 11th and March 2nd, respectively. The Chinese Lantern Festival ends the biggest Chinese festival, Chinese New Year (aka China’s Spring Festival).

What do you do at the Chinese Lantern Festival?

Participating in the Chinese Lantern Festival does not require much exertion. Basically, you go around and admire all the lanterns.  Lanterns come in many shapes and sizes and themes. Lighting a lantern is a prayer for a smooth future ahead with all the best for the family.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

How’s this for an elaborate lantern?

There are other ways to appreciate this Chinese light festival other than just admiring the pretty lanterns. Often the lanterns have riddles which people try to solve. If you solve the riddle, you give your answer to the owner. If your answer is right, then the owner will give you a small prize. Lion dances are another custom done during lantern festivals. The lion dance is a traditional folk dance which is used to ward off evil. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Chinese festival unless there was food involved. The traditional food eaten during the Lantern Festival are little rice dumplings called Yuanxiao.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

A celebration of Chinese food

Where are the Major Lantern Festivals in China?

The biggest Lantern Festival in China is held in Quinhai in Nanjing which is supported by the local government who want it to be as big as the Harbin Ice Festival. The Quinhai festival is so famous it even gets a mention in an ancient Chinese novel, [easyazon_link identifier=”0385093799″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]The Dream of the Red Chamber[/easyazon_link], considered one of the world’s classic books.

There are other major lantern festivals as well, including the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai. During the Cultural Revolution, lantern festivals were banned.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

Red is a lucky color for the Chinese.

Magical Lantern Festival Photo Gallery

We went to the Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick even though the temperatures were freezing. Although we spent an hour to walk around, we would have taken even longer if we hadn’t been losing sensation in our limbs!  Luckily, the festival organisers had vendors selling gourmet marshmallows to toast as well as hot drinks which helped us out.  We also munched on hot churros for warmth (or that’s our excuse!).

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

Toasting gourmet marshmallows over a fire to keep warm.

I know the Magical Lantern Festival touts the ice rink, the food vendors and the fun fair as activities for its visitors. On our visit, many people were foregoing these pleasures because it was just too cold.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

What would a Chinese festival be without a cute panda?

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

A magical walkway of lighted lanterns

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

Swans are a popular symbol of love worldwide.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

We thought this elephant was too cute.

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

Wonders along the Silk Road included dolphins?

The Magical Lantern Festival, A Chinese Light Festival in London

I have no idea what fashion in Paris has to do with anything. Maybe the use of silks in fashion?

Have you been to a Chinese lantern festival?  I’d love to hear what you think.

Why I Love London Street Fairs

Why I Love London Street Fairs

One of my favourite things about London are visiting the street fairs that occur periodically in different parts of the city.  At the street fairs you really get a sense of the string of villages that were put together to create London as we know it today.

Covent Garden street fair

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Seven Dials section of Covent Garden for their street fair. Although the day started off raining, the afternoon turned glorious with sunshine and blue sky.  People were hanging out in the column that marks the centre of Seven Dials. Around the column, a little area of fake grass with beach chairs was set up so that you could listen to the band playing.

The shops were open and people were wandering around exploring the different cobblestone streets that create a maze in this area.

Covent Garden stores

I loved that there was an artist on hand at Superga to create customised footwear. How cool are these trainers?

Superga footwear

Did I mention the food?  Some of the restaurants set up stalls in their store fronts and other vendors set up stalls on the streets.  Benefit, the cosmetics company, was doing treatments and selling cupcakes for charity.

The Neal’s Yard is a nice surprise of colour as you turn off a little path into the square.  Of course, Neal’s Yard Dairy was a stop we had to make for its fabulous cheeses.

Neals Yard Covent Garden

Like many other parts of London, you find great street art in Covent Garden too.

Covent Garden street art

When the question is posed – anyone for Pimms?  The correct answer is always yes!! I had my first Pimms of the summer and all felt right with the world.

Pimms bike

We had a wonderful time at the Seven Dials fair.  I’m looking forward to the next one we always attend, the Marylebone Summer Fayre, which in the past has been held on Father’s Day Weekend.  This year though it is being held on June 28th but I’ve got it pencilled in my calendar already!

Why I love London Street Fairs

Why I love London Street Fairs

I am joining Lauren at The Lifestyle Diaries at her monthly link-up exploring London.  I realise that I have lived in London for umpteen years, absolutely love it but rarely blog about it. I focus on all the places where we travel and forget about the great place where we are living. Hopefully, this monthly post will inspire me to write more about living in London.

SaveSave