Chinese New Year Lantern Festival…oh and the President
Once a year, during Chinese New Year, there is a huge lantern festival in Taiwan held at Sun Yet-Sen Memorial Hall (國立國父紀念館), about ten blocks from where we are staying. During the day we went to the Memorial Hall, totally unaware of the festival, my boyfriend just wanted to show me because it has a huge park and a view of Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest buildings. When we got there, the entire park had gigantic floats with huge paper lanterns and giant rabbit artwork (it’s the year of the rabbit)! There were at least twenty to thirty gigantic floats, all made by local schools.
In the gardens they had hundreds of big plastic bunnies holding lanterns, and one GIANT bunny, hundreds of feet high on this platform in the middle of the park, in front of the Memorial Hall. Surrounding this temple-shaped memorial were kids practicing skits and dance moves, and huge stages for the opening night of the lantern festival later that evening, where everything would be lit up! My boyfriend and I have a tendency to stumble into crazy situations like this! We agreed that we HAD to come back that night to check it out. Turns out, it was a REALLY big deal!
When we got in line to get into the park later that night, and there were trees lining the park covered in Christmas lights. Inside the park, the giant bunny floats were all lit up, and somehow managed to look even more beautiful than before. People were pouring into the park taking pictures of everything, all the bunnies with their lanterns were lit up, and there was a huge stage in front of the Memorial. The stage was filled with all these important figures and executives, everyone was waiting to see them light the gigantic bunny in the center. We thought it was weird that there was tons of press there, but figured the lighting was just a big deal, akin to lighting the Rockefeller tree.
The show started as some drummers came out and then a Taiwanese pop singer sang a couple songs, and it seemed to be taking a while to get on with the lighting. Suddenly, the stage doors open up, and everyone starts freaking out! My boyfriend turns to me with this shocked face just staring at me, and everyone was speaking Taiwanese so I had no idea what everyone was fussing over. It turns out…the Taiwanese president was there! My boyfriend was shocked, even he had never seen the president before. It’s sort of like running into Obama on your third day visiting America. CRAZY!
The lighting turned out to be an insane party! They lit the huge bunny and did a laser light show projected onto a giant fountain in front of the bunny, and let off fireworks and streamers, it was so much fun! Taiwanese know how to party!