January can be a bit of a letdown after the merriment of Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s celebrations. A few nights ago, I was thrilled to get another festive jolt at the Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival. Lantern displays featuring everything from giant dragons to smiling trees light up the night sky at the Pacific National Coliseum (PNE) complex. The holidays have come and gone for many of us, but this festive event runs through January 21. The bonus: no holiday traffic, parking issues and crowds to contend with.
This is the first year the event has been staged in Vancouver. It’s produced by a Chinese company and is the largest of its kind in Canada—fitting for a city with such a large and vibrant Chinese community. Chinese lantern festivals have been around for over 2000 years. Traditionally celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, the Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival period (Friday, March 22 in 2018). We’re celebrating a bit early in Vancouver!
This display of smiling trees near the entrance of the exhibit set the tone for me—a joyful experience filled with Oohs and Aahs. There wasn’t much background information about the displays and I am perplexed how they’ve been able to stand up to the rain, wind, snow…Perhaps the fabric that covers the wire frames isn’t as delicate as it looks.
The dragon is the largest display—an incredible 60 m (197 ft) long.
I think this temple display was my favourite. It’s a life-size porcelain pagoda made from 100,000 dishes and spoons, and crowned with lanterns. If you scroll through the photos you can see that it changes colours every few seconds. Stunning!
The pagoda is surrounded by colourful displays with intricate patterns, like the graceful swans and imposing guard.
And of course, a crowd favourite, the cute pandas.
I was really taken by this beautiful elephant display. The elegance and simple colour scheme stand out among the other scenes that have more patterns and colours.
You have to get up close to this display to see that the dragon is decorated with hundreds of tiny glass bottles filled with coloured water. Each bottle is only about an inch tall.
Several displays depict Chinese stories with important figures, like this one of Confucius and his disciples.
And there’s an impressive nod to western and popular modern culture with a giant Santa lantern.
Some look Disneyesque, like this fun, bright underwater display with jellyfish and Nemo-looking characters.
In contrast, there’s an exquisite traditional-looking fish scene that represents wealth and prosperity in the new year.
I’m a big fan of the simple, traditional Chinese lanterns and they are hanging everywhere, in the trees and adorning the ceilings of passageways.
I was totally impressed by the beauty and creativity of the lanterns as well as the size of the overall exhibit. I was astounded to learn that the Vancouver exhibit is considered small by Chinese standards. One of these days I’ll have to check this out.
Just wandering through the grounds would have completely satisfied me, but included in admission is also a 30-minute show featuring Chinese dancers, jugglers, acrobats and musicians. It was entertaining, but I’d had it with photo taking. Like everything else, the show is outdoors and there is no covered area. Sitting on a wooden bench with the wind kicking up and bits of cold drizzle starting to fall, my gloves were staying on.
This show is definitely worth visiting if you’re in Vancouver over the next 10 days. Hopefully it will back next year. Dress warmly and bring an umbrella.
Happy New Year!!!