Lanterns have long been used as a symbol of light and hope, and coloured lanterns add a new dimension to this traditional decorative item. With vibrant hues and intricate designs, coloured lanterns have become a staple in festivals and events around the world. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of coloured lanterns, their cultural significance and the ways they are used in various festivals.
The Origins of Coloured Lanterns
The history of the lantern dates back to ancient China, where they were used as a source of light. They were originally made of silk or paper, often with decorations cut into the paper to create patterns. As the popularity of lanterns grew, so did their versatility. They were used to light up streets, as decorative objects, and even as signaling devices of emergencies.
The first coloured lantern festival dates back to the Tang Dynasty, which spanned from 618 to 907 AD. This festival was held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month and was known as the Shangyuan Festival. The festival was a celebration of the first full moon of the Chinese New Year and marked the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Colourful lanterns were lit and paraded through the streets, and people would release paper lanterns into the sky. The popularity of this festival later spread to other parts of Asia, and eventually to other parts of the world.
Cultural Significance of Coloured Lanterns
Different cultures have different meanings associated with coloured lanterns. In China, red lanterns symbolize good luck and are often seen during Chinese New Year celebrations. Yellow lanterns represent prosperity, while green lanterns are meant to bring harmony and peace. Blue lanterns symbolize immortal love, while purple lanterns represent wealth and honor. During Mid-Autumn Festival, lanterns featuring the moon as their theme are common.
In Thailand, lanterns known as khom loi are made of rice paper, held together by bamboo frames and, lit up by a candle placed inside. This festival is also known as the Floating Lantern Festival, which is when the lanterns are launched into the sky or floated along a river. It is believed that the lanterns bring good luck and release bad karma.
Coloured Lanterns in Festivals Around the World
The use of coloured lanterns has become a popular theme in festivals around the world. One of the most famous lantern festivals is the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival in Taiwan. This festival involves lighting up thousands of colourful lanterns and releasing them into the night sky. People write their wishes, prayers or even expressions of apology on the lanterns.
Another famous festival is the Yi Peng Festival in Thailand, which is similar to the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. During this event, thousands of khom loi or floating lanterns are released into the sky. Aside from the floating lanterns, another type of lantern is used in the form of krathong. This is a small, floating vessel made from banana leaves that are decorated with colourful flowers, candles and incense. The krathongs are released into the river to honor the river goddess.
The Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival is an annual festival celebrated in Singapore’s Chinatown. This festival has many events but one of the highlights is the lantern display. The streets are adorned with a myriad of lanterns in all shapes and sizes, from the traditional ones to contemporary designs.