Maria Jesus Martinez
The Center for Student Involvement and Inclusion hosted the Lantern Festival on April 5 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The event took place at Love Valley, locatedon the University of West Georgia campus, and was decorated with Chinese lanterns and featured a hot air balloon.
“The Lantern Festival is typically celebrated for the Chinese New Year and is mostly celebrated for forgiveness,” said Dejora Curry, a UWG graduate student, who is doing her practicum in the department of Student Affairs. “On that day, the families decorate the lanterns, walk around with the lanterns, and release them.”
Also called the Yuan Xiao Festival, this day has two possible origins. The first version is that the celebration began in the Han dynasty, the second Chinese dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), when monks started to light lanterns to worship Buddha, and later this tradition expanded to China and Asia.
In the second version, a legend narrates that the Lanterns Festival started when an Emperor blamed a village for killing his goose and as a payback, the emperor decided to burn the village. However, the villagers were warned on time by a spirit and decided to light lanterns to disguise theentire town as it was already on fire to trick the emperor. From that moment on, the townspeople started to light lanterns every year as a way of gratitude towards the spirit.
This event was slightly different from the rest of the Lanterns Festivals celebrated worldwide as the lanterns were not released into the air. The floating lanterns were replaced by the hot air balloon, which departed with students so they could experience a symbolic experience. The festival was also unalike as it was the first time UWG included a hot air balloon.
“The hot balloon actually represents the actual lanterns going up since we couldn’t release the actual lanterns on campus,” said Curry. “We can’t guarantee that they are biodegradable like at normal lantern festivals.
“It gives a little significance to the event for people not to think that it is just for decorating lanterns,” continued Curry. “Even when you are in the balloon, the person who is very knowledgeable talks to you about how it works.”
Instead, the 260 lanterns came with a little light so the students could use it as a lamp. There were also three different sizes of lanterns, small, medium and large, so the students could have more than one lantern if they wanted.
The event offered lucky bamboos for students as well, an asian plant which consists of a bamboo stick which is put in a glass cup with gravel and water. As the name suggests, the plant is supposed to provide good luck and prosperity.
The food at the event was served by Dine West and included Asian cuisine such as chicken lo mein, vegetable egg rolls with sweet chili sauce, vegetable potstickers, Asian teriyaki meatballs, along with mango and peach lemonade. In addition, there was a cotton candy station which covered a stick with colorful lights. Theevent also offered some games such as human-sized dominoes, Connect Four, corn hole and spike ball.
While the department did not organize anything for the Chinese New Year, they still wanted to highlight Asian culture with this festival.
“The Chinese New Year is around February, and since we are in April it is a little non-traditional but we still wanted to highlight the culture,” said Curry.
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