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6 Lantern Festivals That’ll Brighten Your Life

By Sarah Buder

Dec 27, 2021

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Traditional lanterns are commonly used to commemorate cultural and spiritual celebrations around the world.

Photo by adisornfoto/Shutterstock

Traditional lanterns are commonly used to commemorate cultural and spiritual celebrations around the world.

These colorful events from Chiang Mai to Oahu are rooted in ancient cultural traditions.

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Note: Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

Sky lanterns can be traced back thousands of years to the Eastern Han Dynasty in China (25–220 C.E.), when the bright, floating objects were used not only as light sources but also to relay important military signals across long distances. Today, however, the traditional lanterns hold a slightly lighter significance, as they’re commonly used to commemorate cultural and spiritual celebrations across Asia and in various destinations around the world with large populations of Asian descent. From a floating lantern festival in Hawaii to Vietnam’s monthly full moon festival, here are six radiant lantern celebrations that take place annually around the world.

In Hoi An, the Full Moon Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 14th day of each lunar month when the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

Full Moon Lantern Festival

Hoi An, Vietnam

When: Hoi An’s 2022 Full Moon Lantern Festival falls on January 16, February 14, March 16, April 14, May 14, June 14, July 13, August 12, September 10, October 9, November 8, and December 8.

In Buddhist tradition, the full moon is considered an ideal time to meditate, reflect, observe rituals, and honor deceased ancestors. As part of this belief, the Full Moon Lantern Festival in Hoi An is held on the 14th day of the lunar calendar every month. At sundown, homes and businesses across the city turn off their electricity and allow lantern lights to illuminate the area. Locals and visitors can release lanterns onto the river, an act that is thought to bring happiness and health.

Chinese lanterns are traditionally red, as the color is believed to symbolize warmth, happiness, and good fortune.

Spring Lantern Festival


When: The next Spring Lantern Festival falls on February 15, 2022.


The annual Spring Lantern Festival in China can be traced back approximately 2,000 years to when an Eastern Han Dynasty emperor was said to have ordered that all temples, households, and royal palaces light lanterns on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month to show respect to the Buddha.

Today, the festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year and celebrates family, society, and the coming of spring. Although specific customs vary regionally, the most prevalent activities involve lighting lanterns, guessing riddles, eating tangyuan (ball-shaped dumplings), and watching traditional lion dance performances. China’s largest Spring Lantern Festival celebration takes place in Nanjing, the capital of the eastern Jiangsu province, but events are held in other cosmopolitan cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, as well as in rural regions across the country.

Taiwan’s Pingxi Lantern Festival is held annually in the rural Pingxi District in New Taipei.

Pingxi Lantern Festival

Pingxi District, Taiwan

When: The 2022 Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is scheduled for February 15.

The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is held annually in Taiwan’s Pingxi District, a mountainous region located approximately one hour east of Taipei. Marking the first full moon of every Lunar New Year—normally during February or March—lantern releases are held in the rural villages of Jington, Pingxi, and Shifen. (The festival’s largest event takes place in Shifen.) During the festival, thousands of people gather to scribble their wishes on colorful paper lanterns before releasing them into the sky in the hopes that their prayers will be answered. The release of the lanterns, which also commemorates the official end of Chinese New Year, is considered a symbol of embracing an optimistic future.

The Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony brings thousands of Oahu residents and visitors together each year on Memorial Day.

Lantern Floating Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii

When: The next Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony is scheduled for May 30, 2022.

Each Memorial Day on Oahu’s south shore, Lantern Floating Hawaii brings thousands of residents and visitors together on the beach to honor and remember their deceased loved ones. The island’s first festival, hosted by Shinnyo-en, an international Buddhist community, took place in 1999 at Keehi Lagoon. But since 2002, the festival has been held at Ala Moana Beach, a sandy stretch between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. The ceremony begins with a series of traditional performances by local musical groups; a prayer led by the head of the Shinnyo-en community, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, follows. Then, participants send floating lanterns—meant to inspire remembrance, hope, and good fortune—into the Pacific Ocean as the sun sets. (The Buddhist community retrieves the lanterns from the Pacific afterwards, cleans and repairs them, and stores them for use in future festivals.)

In Buddhist culture, releasing a floating lantern into the sky represents optimism and new beginnings.

Yi Peng Festival

Chiang Mai, Thailand

When: Chiang Mai’s Yi Peng Festival is set to begin on November 8, 2022.

The idea behind this traditional festival stems from the belief that by sending the Buddha an offering into the sky, a person’s spirit can be cleansed and their misfortune can be healed. The Yi Peng Festival is celebrated across northern Thailand, but the biggest ceremony takes place in Chiang Mai each year.


During the event, which occurs on the “full moon day” during the second month of the Lanna lunar calendar (the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar), thousands of rice paper lanterns called khom loi are released into the sky. The religiously significant lantern ceremony used to be for monks’ participation only, but today tourists can attend by purchasing highly coveted entry tickets, most of which are sold through authorized tourism agencies and typically cost up to $300.

Loi Krathong celebrations, which coincide with the Yi Peng Festival in northern Thailand, take place more broadly across Thailand.

Loi Krathong


When: Loi Krathong celebrations are scheduled to begin 0n November 9, 2o22.

The Yi Peng Festival coincides with Loi Krathong, a traditional festival celebrated widely across Thailand. Both annual events are considered “festivals of light,” but Loi Krathong celebrations involve releasing a krathong (a basket traditionally made out of a banana stalk and stocked with candles and incense) down a body of water as opposed to sending lanterns floating into the sky. Loi Krathong lasts for one night on the full moon of the 12th month of the traditional Thai calendar. The most popular celebrations take place in Bangkok and Sukhothai, but travelers in Chiang Mai for the Yi Peng Festival will also be able to observe Loi Krathong events in northern Thailand’s largest city.

This article originally appeared online in March 2019; it was updated on December 27, 2021, to include current information.

>>Next: Where to Go in 2022

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