Mixed Plate: Taiwan’s Sky Lantern Festival sets fiery prayers aloft

Mixed Plate

The Sky Lantern Festival in Taiwan is celebrated across the island with best wishes for the Year of the Dog.

They’re not just cocoons of floating fire. They also carry prayers to seek heavenly favor. The higher they soar, the more likely to be noticed by cloud-enshrouded deities.

More than 100,000 lanterns are set to be released at the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival.

The next group is ushered into the town square, pens in hand to write their hopes and dreams on the rice paper. A monitor lights a kerosene wad within and the air density fills the tube until the countdown.

Sadly, some wishes go up in smoke. 

There’s a brief moment of silent contemplation, then the lanterns spring free. How can the gods ignore such prayers when sent by bulk delivery? 

“It’s a very unique and Chinese heritage and tradition, very proud of it. It’s special because we celebrate the last day of Lunar New Year. It will look amazing,” said Pingxi resident Wu Zhi Kui.

The tradition had a somewhat less festive origin. In times of war, the lanterns carried coded messages to rebels in the hills.

Today, the words ask for peace, prosperity, health, and happiness. The fuse is lit, the lantern comes alive, so hot we’re told to hold on with our shoes.

A quiet moment, and we send our prayers soaring into the night sky.

Somewhere on a distant hill, ashes are falling, the remnants of lanterns consumed in flame.

But some are allowed to ascend to the very steps of heaven and take their place among the stars, sparkling like topaz on velvet.

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