February 7, 2012

in through the looking glass

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.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

A Vapid Blonde February 9, 2012 at 8:52 pm

I think in a child’s eye the festival looks as dreamy and surreal as that photo. Sadly as we grow and learn and become what we all believe to be better humans our perception and our reality changes so much that we can never see the beauty in a paper lantern. Whether that lantern is really plastic or paper. It still is beautiful.
A Vapid Blonde´s last blog post…Me and My Middle Bully. Kind of Like The Song “Me and My Shadow”. Kind of.


Absence Alternatives February 12, 2012 at 11:30 pm

You are absolutely right!


Ry sal February 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Wow, I appreciate this post… And I know that sounds like blog spam, but it’s true. Reminds me of balloon releases we used to do before adults realized that the balloons were landing in the ocean, killing the seagulls. We’d write our little ‘if you find this balloon” notes, stand in the middle of the field, release, and then watch as half of the balloons drifted to the nearest treetops– tangled forever, or until the tree fell down. Kids crying everywhere.


Absence Alternatives February 12, 2012 at 11:29 pm



Have you seen the movie Tangled? There is a scene that is just gorgeous that this picture reminds me of.


chickens consigliere February 9, 2012 at 7:36 pm

That photo is beautiful. I long for chasing butterflies and fireflys and for fireworks on the promenade. Hope you are doing well, Absence!
chickens consigliere´s last blog post…Chicken and the Battle at Big Mall Build-a-Bear: A Memoir


Absence Alternatives February 12, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Thank you! Hope you are well too!


Velva February 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I don’t know why but the lantern tradition at the end of the new year reminded me of the tradition of Kite running…I know they hardly resemble each other but your post made me think of it-

Happy New Year!
Velva´s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday


Absence Alternatives February 12, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Pretty things in the sky. I can see it. 🙂


BigLittleWolf February 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Intriguing post. Yes, we city dwellers recreate our environments in interesting ways. I was thinking of reinvention myself today, though of a different sort.
BigLittleWolf´s last blog post…Orientation


Absence Alternatives February 12, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Sometimes I think we do this every day…


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