Splendid

February 7, 2012

in through the looking glass

Lantern Festival Taipei 2012 Atlantic.com  Splendid

Hundreds of Taiwanese release sky lanterns on Saturday, January 28, 2012, in New Taipei City, Taiwan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Today is the Lantern Festival. I completely forgot about it. It was only when I noticed the headline on The Atlantic, “Chinese Lantern Festival 2012″ that I remembered.

Today marks the end of the Chinese New Year.

Looking through the beautiful photos, I wish I could say, “Yup. These remind me of home.”  Of my childhood.

I wish I could say, yup, I am of that beautiful custom and of that exotic tradition.

The truth is?  I grew up in a concrete jungle much like every other cosmopolitan city around the world. Globalization is an overwhelming equalizing force indeed.  The pictures look much better than what I remembered of Lantern Festival back home. Mine for many years were cheap plastic lanterns, with light bulbs inside. Candles were simply too dangerous.

As I am writing this post, I now am remembering a special lantern that looked like a big pull toy dog made of white paper that looked like real furs. I remember now how proud I was of my special lantern. I could not wait for the day to arrive when I could go into the street, joining the children walking around with lit lanterns. (I guess it was fun way back when…) I am crying now because I also remember that my special lantern caught on fire and was burnt down not long after I joined the crowd in an impromptu parade.

I was inconsolable for days afterwards.

Wow. That flashback is rather traumatic…

[Regroup via visiting Twitter and talking to random strangers... ]

[Ok. I am back!]

The funny thing is, this picture showing sky lanterns was indeed taken in Taipei. However, releasing sky lanterns is a tradition fabricated (or perhaps “invented” would be a better, at least kinder, word?)  Taipei, like all cosmopolitan cities, are feeling the erosion of traditions. People are feeling the longing for a splendid past that frankly most of us had never seen. And so we decided to start making our own, and believing in the histories of it.

Self-invention. Us urbanites are experts.

Splendid.

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