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How the Lantern Festival Is Being Celebrated Around the World

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Updated: | Originally published:

Communities in China and around the world are spending the weekend celebrating the Lantern Festival, which fell on Saturday, Feb. 24 and signals the end of the 2024 Lunar New Year festivities, which welcomed the Year of the Dragon.

The lantern festival falls on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar and marks the first full moon of the new lunar year. People traditionally celebrate the holiday by decorating with colorful lanterns, often with riddles written on them and prizes for those who solve the puzzles.

Here’s how people around the globe are enjoying the holiday. 

People Walk on Stilts to Celebrate Lantern Festival
People walk on stilts to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Chengguan town, Hua County, Anyang city, in Henan province, China, on Feb. 24, 2024. CFOTO-Future Publishing/Getty Images

How China is celebrating the Lantern Festival 

Throngs welcomed the Lantern Festival in cities across the world’s second most populous country with 1.4 billion people. Beijing hosted a slew of lantern festival events across the city. Families flocked to see impressive lantern displays and illuminated inflated animals. In Rizhao, bakers bustled to make the holiday’s special sweet rice balls, shaped and colored like persimmons.

Celebrations everywhere featured lion and dragon dances. One city, Qiandongnan, even combined a dragon dance with fireworks—the performers dressed in fire suits and helmets. On Saturday night in Meizhou, folk artists performed a dazzling Puzhai fire dragon dance to celebrate the festival.

Lantern Festival Celebrated Across China
Folk artists performed the Puzhai fire dragon dance to celebrate the Lantern Festival on Feb. 24, 2024 in Meizhou, Guangdong Province of China. VCG—Getty Images

Many cities featured a regional twist on the celebrations, with displays of unique folk art and clothing. In Anyang, face-painted creatives performed on stilts in a parade. Another city, Qingdao, threw a carnival featuring traditional dances, drum performances, and folk art. 

Fireworks burst across skylines nationwide. In Chongqing, tourists watched a remote-controlled performance of a giant illuminated bird fly through the sky.

A Remote-controlled Performance Celebrate Lantern Festival in Chongqing
Tourists watched a remote-controlled performance of a flying phoenix during an early Lantern Festival celebration in Chongqing, China, on Feb. 23, 2024. Future Publishing—Getty Images
Snow Lantern Tour in Zaozhuang
People ventured out in the snow to enjoy lanterns on the 15th day of the first lunar month in Zaozhuang, China, on Feb. 24, 2024. Costfoto—Getty Images

How Asia is welcoming the Lantern Festival

Some communities in southeast Asia also celebrate the holiday, which they call Cap Go Meh.

Penang, Malaysia, hosted a street festival with fire juggling, food, art, crafts, a dragon dance, orchestra, drum performances, and a traditional Malay Dondang Sayang, a type of song that has been honored by UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, some families flocked to Chinese temples and then ate lontong cap go meh, a traditional holiday dish consisting of a rice cake in banana leaves, served alongside chicken, boiled eggs, vegetables in coconut milk soup, prawn crackers, and chili paste.

Others in Indonesia pierced their faces with needles—a practice said to ward off evil spirits.

A man pierced his cheeks with needles for the Cap Go Meh festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Feb. 24, 2024. Yasuyoshi Chiba—Getty Images

The Lantern Festival festivities in Canada

Canada, home to a large Chinese diaspora, was set to light up for the holiday. Vancouver was hosting a series of events for its LunarFest, including art exhibits, film screenings, origami workshops and more.

Toronto’s Chinatown planned two days of celebrations featuring a lion dance, a Chinese luncheon, and a mahjong game tournament. Across the city, restaurants prepared to offer deals and special treats. Performances, lantern displays, and arts fairs filled public places.

Some events paid homage to other cultures honoring the holiday, with a Vietnamese New Year celebration expected and a library hosting a Korean Lunar New Year with readings in Korean.

Lion dancers perform to bring good luck to restaurants and
London's Chinatown is seen here adorned with red paper lanterns with dancers performing as part of ongoing Lunar New Year 2024 celebrations. Vuk Valcic— Getty Images

The Lantern Festival proceedings in the U.K.

Some British communities also observed the holiday, with a Chinatown food crawl in London and a commemoration in Southampton.

Elsewhere, modern Chinese restaurants in Birmingham hosted their own celebrations to mark the special occasion.

How the U.S. is marking the Lantern Festival  

Beyond local celebrations among Chinese communities, some official events marked the holiday in cities across the U.S., including a make-your-own lantern event in New York City.

San Francisco hosted its massive Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown on Saturday, with actor Awkwafina serving as Grand Marshal—an honoree chosen to lead the parade. Thousands lined the streets for the three-hour affair.

Lunar New Year parade in San Francisco
Kung Fu Panda 4 movie voice actor Awkwafina greeted the crowd during the Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival Parade in San Francisco, California, on Feb. 24, 2024. Tayfun Coskun—Getty Images

The San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce also hosted a Community Street Fair over the weekend with food, dancing, music performances, and other activities. Elsewhere in San Francisco, local organizations coordinated a smaller community celebration featuring performances, lanterns, and mahjong.

In neighboring Oakland, home to its own Chinatown, non-profit groups collaborated to feature Asian-American artists and support local businesses over the weekend.

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