Rose and I decided to give up thoughts of a quiet weekend in our respective cities to check out the Lantern Festival in Kaouhsoing. Given that Kaouhsoing is a city with a population of 4.86 million and there are numerous nearby cities and towns from which people would travel for this event, we were somewhat concerned about crowds on the trains and busses we would use to go home.

This festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar new year, coinciding with the first full moon of the new year. Decorative lanterns are created to light the night sky and Rose and I saw many, many of these as we visited Kaouhsoing for its annual celebration which lasts for two weeks. According to the Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate.

 

 

I have found this to be one of the few holidays with a large public celebration. Most holidays, as much of life here, is celebrated within the family unit.

 

The Lantern Festival is seen as the second or Little New Year when in days gone by farmers would end their celebrations and return to the fields. People eat special dumplings, tang yuan, which symbolize family unity. There are lantern riddle parties and fireworks. Fireworks are a part of almost every holiday here because they scare away dragons and evil spirits.

 

In a very non-traditional move, we had dinner at the Outback. We spent our day exploring the banks of the Love River. This river is actually a canal built by the Japanese to irrigate rice fields further inland (care to guess who would have done all this work and under what conditions?) and over the years has been restored to become a main attraction area in Kaouhsoing. The harbor where the ‘river’ empties to the sea was the sight of a spectacular water show and there would have been fireworks, but it rained yesterday! The thick clouds were so low, we wouldn’t have seen anything. So, the show was canceled and we headed home. The wet weather kept the crowds no larger than those we usually face on our weekend excursions.

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