Taiwan: Taipei’s traditional Chinese Lantern Festival

In Taiwan, the annual traditional Chinese Lantern Festival kicked off in Taipei this past Friday to great fanfare. Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou launched this year’s festival, which features over three dozen enormous lanterns.

This year’s theme lantern is called “Baby.” It is almost 70 feet tall and is designed to serve as a symbol of fertility to encourage higher birth rates. Taiwanese technological sophistication is on display at this year’s Lantern Festival as well, with an interactive component designed to encourage direct participation.

Throughout, a rabbit theme predominates in 2011, an exciting year for Taiwan. The country turns 100 in 2011, and there are a number of official centennial celebrations planned throughout the year.

There are lantern festival variations across Taiwan. In Taipei’s Pingxi District, for example, participants write their names on lanterns and then release them into the sky for good luck and fortune, a practice that dates back to the Ching Dynasty.

Taipei’s Lantern Festival runs through February 20. Those eager to witness the kick-off of Taiwan’s Lantern Festival firsthand can always start making plans for 2012. Next year’s festival launches on February 6, 2012.

[Photo: Getty Images | Patrick Lin]