With an illuminated 20m-tall mascot pig lighting up the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and rows of lanterns shining over the streets, this year's Taipei International Lantern Festival -- a celebration of the holiday that marks the end of Lunar New Year period -- begins this evening.
The festival runs through March 11 at the memorial and this year's theme is the Year of the Pig, which is considered a symbol of fortune, prosperity and luck because of the roundness of the pig's belly.
To reflect that theme, this year's mascot is an adventurous, time-traveling "Zhucolate" pig -- a pun containing the Chinese word for pig -- who educates people on the history and meaning of the Taipei International Lantern Festival and encourages them to discover the beauty of Taipei.
PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUEI, TAIPEI TIMES
The city's Department of Civil Affairs handed out 20,000 free mini "Zhucolate" pig lanterns to mark the festival and will hand out another 40,000 to the public during the celebrations. Twenty thousand will be distributed today and another 20,000 tomorrow at 2pm at the memorial hall.
In addition to the lantern display at the main square of the memorial, 16 lanterns depicting qualities associated with the Year of the Pig and representing aspects of traditional culture will be on display on Xinyi Road and Aiguo East Road, the department's deputy commissioner, Jason Yeh (
To promote the Lunar New Year to foreigners visiting or living in Taiwan, the festival also features an international lantern area near the National Concert Hall, with lanterns sponsored by international companies to represent different countries and cultures.
A riddle contest, a traditional part of the Lantern Festival, will be held every night during the celebrations, the department said.
The department also created an online survey asking peope to vote for the Taipei shops that make the best yuanxiao, which are stuffed sticky rice balls eaten during the Lantern Festival.
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The city's Department of Transportation encouraged festival-goers to take advantage of its special "festival bus" during the celebrations, as heavy traffic was expected around the festival area.
Passengers can catch the buses at the Taipei Main Station, National Taiwan University Station and Taipei City Hall Station, the department said.
Details on the festival are available on the Internet at www.taipei-festival2007.com.
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