Mon, Feb 09, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Nation celebrates Lantern Festival with fireworks

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite the depressing state of the economy, cities and counties around the nation are set to celebrate the Lantern Festival (元宵節) today with an array of festivities, including releasing sky lanterns, shooting firecrackers and hosting several outdoor lantern exhibitions.

It is estimated that all the events will attract around 17 million visitors over the coming two weeks.

This year’s Taiwan Lantern Festival, themed “Plowing Together for Prosperity and Strength,” will mark the 20th anniversary of the annual festivity. The event will be held in Ilan for the first time and is set to kickoff at 7pm when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will light up the main lantern, an 18m golden ox.

In addition to displaying the largest lantern that the Taiwan Lantern Festival has ever seen, starting at 7pm, a three-minute light show will be held every 30 minutes. A firework display will also be held each evening during the festival, which will run through Feb. 22.

Authorities estimate that 300,000 visitors will attend the fsestival today, adding that this weekend and next weekend are expected to be very crowded. As such, the Ilan County Government is calling on visitors to take public transportation as much as possible.

In the capital, the Taipei City Lantern Festival will be held at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the City Hall Plaza. The city government said the main display, “Mo-mo Cow,” was lit yesterday, and had attracted 350,000 visitors on the first day.

Tonight the festival will showcase “virtual lanterns” designed by visual artists as well as eight folk artists, with 24 high-tech projectors utilizing the exterior walls of Taipei City Hall as a screen and displaying “lanterns” based on folklore.

The 15-day Taipei County Pingsi International Sky Lantern Festival, which began on Jan. 26, will climax today at 6pm when 2,000 sky lanterns will be released in 12 waves.

In the past two weeks, Taipei County Government handed out 8,000 free sky lanterns, the county said, adding that today it expects the festival to attract 60,000 visitors.

In Miaoli’s Hakka townships, 15 teams of dragon dancers will parade through a crowd of thousands in a traditional celebration called “bombing the dragon [ 龍].”

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